Wouldn’t life be better if we knew how to flow with its challenges? Wouldn’t we be more effective if we knew how to align with its flow? I think the answer to both these questions is “yes.” But we need to understand how to do this at a practical level. We need awareness of how we sabotage this flow and begin living life aligned with it.
To flow with life, and align with it, requires that we understand how cycles work, because life is cycles.
First, cycles include two parts, two opposites, that balance each other. Cycles demonstrate that true reality is a both/and relationship. We need both one part of the cycle and the other part. We don’t choose or value one part over the other. This is not just a nice idea; it’s essential, beyond discussion or choice. It is the way the world works. Each part needs to fulfill its purpose to be in balance with the other.
For example, in the activity/rest cycle, we need both the activity and the rest parts of the cycle. We apply our energy with activity; we recover our energy with rest. We need to fulfill the purpose of both parts, activity and rest, to be in balance.
Second, within a particular cycle, we commit to either one part or the other part. We won’t be effective if we commit to both simultaneously. Each part of the cycle has different purposes. Splitting our attention between them not only prevents us from doing either one effectively, it stops our flow with life. Our attention becomes split, causing us to be pulled between the two parts, freezing us in the middle.
For example, in the activity/rest cycle we commit to either activity or rest. If we commit to both at the same time, then our activity will be lethargic and our rest will be interrupted. We might not flow with the activity/rest cycle well because we didn’t fully apply our energy nor fully recover our energy.
Third, life is dynamic, not static. The dynamic nature of life is generated by cycling between opposites. We flow with life by committing completely to either one part of the cycle or the other part within an understanding that we need both parts. Dynamics aren’t created by having only one part, or over- or under-valuing either part. As one part of the cycle progresses, the need to shift into its opposite increases until it becomes inevitable to do so. What’s essential for flowing with the dynamic nature of cycles is tuning in to ourselves so we know when to cycle in a timely manner between parts.
As activity progresses, we use our energy until the need to shift into rest becomes inevitable. Likewise, as rest progresses, we recover our energy until the need to shift into activity becomes inevitable. We’re attentive to, and tune into, our level of energy to align with the natural flow of this dynamic cycle.
The breathing cycle is a simple example for investigating this. We need both the inhale and the exhale for an effective breath cycle. Yet, within this both/and cycle, we commit fully to either the inhale or the exhale. Finally, we know it’s a dynamic cycle. We cycle in a timely manner by paying close attention to when we’ve inhaled enough—when the necessity to exhale becomes inevitable—so we can shift into the exhale, and vice versa. We flow with the breath cycle when we align with these three principles. Therefore, it’s important to surrender to the breath cycle rather than fight it.
Let’s consider how this works in climbing. First, the climbing cycle consists of both stopping and moving. We both stop to rest to recover energy and we move to engage our bodies to apply our energy. Thus, we value both parts. Second, we commit to either stopping or moving within that both/and climbing cycle. We commit to either stopping to rest or moving to climb. When you rest, rest; when you climb, climb. Third, we cycle in a timely manner between the parts of the cycle. As we recover more-and-more energy while resting, it becomes inevitable to begin moving to apply our energy. Likewise, as we climb, we use up our energy until it becomes inevitable to stop to rest. We tune into our bodies to know how long to stay at stop points to rest and how long to continue climbing so we don’t fall. If we don’t commit to these principles, then our attention will be split between stopping and moving, between resting and climbing. We’ll be frozen, stopped in the middle of difficult climbing, neither resting nor climbing well.
Life has a certain intent. It moves forward. But how it moves forward is within these principles. To flow with life is to align with its intent. We do this by surrendering. We turn over our idea of what needs to happen to how life directs us.
We can be intentional as we surrender to life’s intent. Intention is attention focused in the direction of a choice. We live intentionally—within life’s intent—by focusing our attention on processes, which keeps our attention in the moment. Life gives us basic processes. Our intent can be unbending, and aligned with life’s intent, by focusing on the processes inherent in life.
In climbing we have processes that help us stay focused in the stop/move climbing cycle. At stop points, we have processes for resting, thinking, and decision-making. When we climb, we have a moving and a falling process. Each process contains specific elements for focusing our attention. For example, the thinking process consists of collecting three pieces of information: the end goal, the consequence, and the plan. No more; no less. The moving process consists of breathing, moving, relaxing, and maintaining eye contact. No more; no less. Our intention is unbending because we choose to focus our attention fully on the specific elements of these processes. By surrendering to these processes—rather than being fixated on the goal—we use our attention effectively, which frees us to climb our best.
Life is difficult and we can unconsciously sabotage ourselves by fighting that reality. A big part of what makes life difficult is our resistance to it, to the truth that it’s difficult. We flow with life by surrendering to that truth and aligning ourselves with the cyclical nature of reality.
Practice tip: Meeting Your Basic Needs
You have two basic needs: comfort/safety/security and stress/learning/growth. You need both comfort/safety/security and stress/learning/growth, not just one of them. It’s important for living a balanced life to meet both needs. Therefore, remember to value both parts of the cycle.
- Life application: You need both rest and activity. Rest meets your need to recover energy (comfort/safety/security); activity meets your need to apply your energy (stress/learning/growth).
- Climbing application: You need both stopping to rest and moving to climb.
Within the both/and cycle of basic needs, you commit to either one or the other, to either comfort/safety/security or stress/learning/growth.
- Life application: You commit to either rest or activity.
- Climbing application: You commit to either stopping to rest, or moving to climb.
The both/and cycle is dynamic. Tune into yourself—your body and mind—to know when it’s time to cycle into the opposite part of the cycle.
- Life application: Tune into how rested you feel upon waking. Tune into how tired you feel while engaged in activities during the day. Are you chronically tired? What can you do to get back into balance?
- Climbing application: Tune into your energy level to know when you’ve recovered enough to begin moving; tune into how much energy you have left as you climb to know when to cycle back into resting.