I was at a bookstore the other day with a simple task: buy a graduation present. I even knew exactly what I was looking for: a cute journal. Nothing more.
But when I got to the journal display and saw the assortment of beautiful, colorful books (not to mention all of the tempting merchandise I had to walk past to get there), a familiar sound bite was playing in my head.
“Maybe I should get this, too.”
Over and over and over, as I looked at a journal with a bright orange fox on the cover, then another plastered with a rainbow splash of flowers, and one with an intricate tree embossed in gold. And then a set of colored pens. And a cute stationery set.
I picked out a journal for the graduation gift, and with the book tucked under my arm, I weighed two more journals in either hand.
“Maybe I should get this, too. Maybe I should get this, too. Maybe…”
I took a deep breath and asked my Higher Self to step in and guide my thoughts, words, and deeds, and as I continued to breathe and wait for the shift to occur, suddenly the journals in my hands felt heavy. Too heavy. Unnecessary.
I set them down and continued to focus on my breath. New awareness seeped in. I became aware of my tendency to stock up, to amass things before I actually needed them.
Then, I became aware that I was more likely to do this with things that I wanted and not things that I needed. Hmm…interesting. Deeper still, I became aware of an odd fear, one that I hadn’t been conscious of before: I stocked up on wants, in part, because I wanted to obtain the object of my desire before I changed my mind and the want faded.
This intrigued me. Why on earth would I do this? I mean, if part of me was aware that the want would inevitably pass, that in a few minutes or hours I wouldn’t care anymore about the object of my desire, why not wait it out?
The easy answer is low tolerance for delayed gratification, but this didn’t resonate, because, quite often, I savor the waiting, the anticipation. The more complex answer is that I am trying to solidify and concretize (to use a Pema Chödrön term) something ephemeral.
And this brings us back to the ever important topic of flow, which I wrote about recently (“Can We Experience Flow Even in Crappy Times?”).
Flow requires a certain level of allowing, of surrender, because by its very nature, flow is not something we can entirely plan for; it’s something that happens, in large part, organically. It flows. It doesn’t take predesignated steps, one at a time.
And when we are feeling ungrounded, unstable, or insecure (different flavors of the same state), we are more likely to resist flow.
If our self-care practices have slipped (or lapsed entirely), we’re more likely to resist flow.
If we’re engaging in thoughts and behaviors that unground us (and these will be different for each of us)–things like watching too much TV, spending too much time on Facebook (or online, in general), allowing cyclical thoughts to carry us away–we’re more likely to resist flow.
Looking at this in the context of my journal conundrum and the desire to stock up, when I am feeling ungrounded, I am more likely to try and solidify anything I can get my hands on, including that fleeting want.
My ego feeds the fear: “You might not be able to get this later. Better stock up now!”
Rather than trust that when I actually need a new journal (i.e. not when I still have a half-empty one waiting at home) I’ll be able to find one, my ego mistrusts the flow and puts up a dam made of books and stuff bought well before they’re needed.
In The Witch’s Coin, Christopher Penzcak writes, “an initiate owns nothing, yet has use of everything,” and “The abundance of the world is not rooted in the planet’s ability to make more of our finite resources. They’re finite. The abundance comes in our relationship, to keep the flow of ‘wealth’ by releasing what does not serve, so that energy can be better put to use elsewhere.”
When we amass stuff from a fear of lack–past, present, or future–we block flow. We help to create the very thing we most fear: a lack. A lack of flow.
We begin to create a reality in which things do not flow to us when we need them. They can’t–we’ve erected a giant dam. And this creates a feedback loop: things don’t flow, we fear lack, we stock up, the dam gets bigger, things don’t flow, we fear lack…
I took a few moments in the store to imagine roots extending from my feet, deep into the Earth. I allowed the calming, grounding Earth energy to flow into my body as I continued to breathe slowly, feeling gravity, stillness wash over me.
And then, I turned and walked away from the smorgasbord of stuff, paid for the gift I came in for, and left. I felt light, unencumbered. I felt grateful that all of this beauty existed–fox journals! flowers! trees! pretty pens!–and trusted that I didn’t need to acquire it all to feel safe.
And once I finish my current journal, I trust that a super awesome, just-what-I-need journal will appear. I choose to trust in flow.
Care to join me?