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May 04, 2005

Flowing without Knowing

During the check in, several words like transition, change, pain, letting go, loss of identity were heard. Because many of these were mentioned in the context of work, Jags wondered whether we focus so much on work and somehow ignore the underlying current � relationships. That led to a good discussion on Silicon Valley life style.

You are your job in the valley (perhaps it is the same everywhere). In the valley, many people draw their energy from work and evolve with what they do. Some of the participants said that their sense of self developed over time with what they do and is not connected to what they feel or think or whom they relate to. After some reflective dialogue and thoughtful contribution from Srikanth, we came to the following statement:

I know what I don�t like but don�t really know what I like. So I keep doing what I don�t like because that, I really know. �I am not comfortable exploring what I don�t know� is the implication.

Do we disappear without a label, without knowing what we are dealing with? I take a lot of photos of flowers but most of the names of the flowers elude me. When people like my photos and ask me to name them, I am really embarrassed because I don�t remember most of them even though I attempt to learn the names. So even a beautiful photo without a label loses its beauty and its uniqueness � or does it? Why do we have such addiction to knowing?

We are also addicted to certain actions and keep longing for them. We know that work does not give joy but we give joy to work. So if we like what we are doing, if we enjoy what we are doing instead of longing for what we are not doing, we could have magic in our lives.

Surprisingly, magic did show up in the group at this instant. Srikanth mentioned that when he is doing what he enjoys, he is lost and becomes totally absent. He becomes unaware of his own presence and work stops being a chore. There were many heads nodding and Manvi, who has been quiet till then got excited and animated. She agreed with Srikanth and shared her own experiences in the hospitals she had worked in and how she becomes part of her work and not separate from it. The difficult and boring work becomes a joyful expression of oneself and one disappears in the process of working � there is loss of identity or should I say one identifies oneself with their work.

The definition that came up for joy was that �joy is liking what you do rather than doing what you like�.

That state of being where the identity is lost seems to be outside of time. It is not becoming, it is conscious doing and it is not about change. There are no transitions that one experiences other than the fact that it is life. When one is truly experiencing it, there are no emotions, no ego and no attachment. Once you step outside of that experience, you say you are happy or unhappy. But being in the flow of life, there is no labeling of any sort and one is truly lost to time and present to the moment.

Can we live like that continuously? How do we get to do that more often?

It is found that performers seem to lose themselves sometimes. People who are great at what they are doing seem to get into that zone. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book on Flow (Flow: an optimal state of experience). It is said that when you are in flow, you gain endurance and suffering disappears even though you experience intense pain (see this article article).

So suffering starts with labeling. If you don�t label, suffering passes as endurance. In the article that I mentioned above, the author talks about cyclists who go on long rides in competition and endure pain for several hours a day and still be in flow.

Then the question was: Can we experience flow collectively? Obviously we were in the middle of one such experience because there was a lot of participation from different people and there were many moments where there was total silence and reflective comments. People did not jump to respond and there were very few reactive statements. We were able to experience and enjoy just being together and not necessarily trying to find answers. There was willingness to sit with not knowing.

Not knowing sometimes creates anxiety. Having images might create expectations and lead to unnecessary suffering � not the physical kind but the mental kind.

How do we deal with change in relationships and does such change create more anxiety? Being in a relationship is to accept certain ground rules tacitly. When the agreement is reached, then we play the roles as long as we feel safe. When status quo is changed, we feel unsafe and the relationship gets threatened.

Do boundaries create safety for people?

In old type of work, the boundaries stayed rigidly for a long time. But in the new kind of �matrix organizations�, the boundaries are constantly being renegotiated. It does not mean that they become easier but that is the reality so it is more easily accepted.

How do we deal with suffering when we are not able to get into a flow state?

I gave some example from Gita and attempted to interpret it based on the context we were discussing. As you read further, realize that metaphor can only go so far before it breaks.

I quoted from third chapter of Gita (III.38) � the yoga of Action. In it, it is said that suffering begins with desire and anger. Once they take over, our discrimination, buddhi is clouded or deluded creating more suffering. The suffering could show up as fire enveloped by smoke or as a dusty mirror, or as an embryo still in the womb.

This kind of suffering created by desire and anger can be reduced by three approaches and each depends on the type of attachment. If a person is sattvik, his or her suffering shows up like smoke enveloping the fire. At that time, one�s desires, even if they are for the common good, are still personal desires and are connected with one�s ego. When you blow into the fire or when you immerse yourself into the source of knowledge and energy, the smoke (the ego) disappears and you are left with clear discrimination.

The second kind of suffering comes from the veiling caused by agitations based on our desire for glory and power. These are rajasik desires and the removal of them requires more work. Just blowing on the fire and allowing the fire to burn brightly will not remove the veiling as it did in the previous case but here you have to polish the mirror with the help of a clean wipe. In the previous case, even with smoke, the fire can be perceived but in this case, when the dust is thickly coated on the mirror, one cannot see ones reflection in it.

The third kind of suffering cannot be removed by either focusing on the fire (truth) or polishing the mirror with a clean wipe. The fetus is protected by the womb till the time the maturation is complete and the veil completely prevents us from seeing the truth. This kind of desires that emanate from immediate, gross needs are tamasik in nature and they only drop off after a long period of disciplined self development.

It is important to note that when we are in flow, the label disappears. In the completely veiled condition like the fetus in the womb, the label is not seen. One might ask what the difference is. It is like you can give away only what you have. When you don�t have it, it is not yours to give away or let go.

At that time, we began to realize that creating space is critical here. Whatever we are experiencing is OK as long as we accept it totally. When we negate what we have or who we are, then the conflict begins and suffering occurs. The process of flow is to remove the conflict and schism and heal the two parts of our self. When there is no right and wrong in the traditional sense and when we accept both polarities, the space gets created. You don�t create space but the space is created when you are respectful to the moment and respect what is going on without judgment.

The practice we took away last week is just being in the moment. How do we do it? Just by observing where we are and accepting what we got and not by judging it.

It was one of those special sessions where people participated fully and everybody went with something that cannot be put in language. Thanks everyone...

Posted by pkaipa at May 4, 2005 08:42 AM

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