Walking the Tightrope

My Experiment: Part 10

You can read Part 9 here: Going with the Flow

I want to thank my friend Chris for the title of this post (he was quoting Stevie Ray Vaugh). It’s another metaphor for finding balance, I think I’m going to need lots of those, because this is a recurring theme that keeps coming up for me. After the profound experience at Envision, where going with the flow was effortless, I remained in that mindful state for several days, listening to my instincts, feeling the next right thing to do, living in the moment. But with time, I slowly started slipping back into my head. Ironically, Envision itself is partly responsible for my backslide into planning. I was so excited about the festival, I wanted to write a bunch of blog posts, describing my adventures, and my brain started creating all these schemes around writing. Before I knew it, I was back living in plans, instead of living in the present and going with the flow.

It seems like every breakthrough I have becomes the seeds of the next plan. I have an enlightening experience, and then my brain starts strategizing to recreate that experience. But the most illuminating advancements usually just happen, without planning, when I’m going with the flow.

I’ve identified three factors that tend to pull me out of the flow and into schemes. One, I often need some measure of planning to navigate daily life, bus schedules, tides, yoga classes, local bands, there are concrete times I need to work around. Two, sometimes I can’t feel the next right thing to do; when I think about my options, nothing sounds appealing, so I don’t know what to do. Three, there are times when I need to work but I really don’t feel like it.

Although I’m starting to understand the appeal of giving up everything for a life as a wandering ascetic, I don’t think that’s my path. The only option I see is to find the balance of dealing with the constraints of my life while constantly striving to flow, to walk the tightrope of creating plans to handle with life without getting so attached that I stop listening to my feelings and my environment. I need to be willing to abandon the plan when the flow calls.

My balance on the tightrope is improving. The other day, after finishing up my work and other tasks, I had a plan to walk down to the river for a quick, refreshing dip, then come back home to write a little before heading into town for the open mic at night. But when I walked out onto the beach on my way to the river, the waves looked really fun, the ocean was calling to me. So I abandoned the plan, went back and grabbed my board, and surfed instead. It was really fun, the waves were gorgeous, not many other people, I caught lots of fun rides. Afterwards I felt refreshed and rejuvenated.

After that, the rest of the evening just flowed. When I started walking into town, almost immediately a young guy on a motorcycle stopped and offered me a ride, without me even asking. At the open mic, instead of my usual constant inner dialogue of mild social anxiety, worrying about how to fit in with the social scene, things just flowed. I ran into a cool group of people from Vermont whom I had met the day before, so I sat down with them and had nice conversations. When I was tired of talking, they left, and a spot opened up for me to play. After playing I wandered out onto the street and ran into other people I knew for more enjoyable conversations. Then the music called me back inside and I danced to captivating jams. To cap off the evening, as the music died down, I ran into another friend who offered me a ride home. It all just happened, effortlessly, flowing from one scene to the next.

I used to frequently struggle in social situations, but since I’ve been here in Costa Rica, I find it much easier to flow through crowds. I think it’s because I’m better at getting out of my head, thinking less and being more. It’s easier to just feel how I can fit in with the social environment.

You can read Part 11 here: Digging Deeper

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