An editorial by Sheila Ferguson
It took me years to realize that “going with the flow” was an age-old universal concept. Who knew? It was a phrase that my mother always used to calm me down. Though she genuinely believed in setting goals and getting your work done, she would also say, “Never let the stressors of everyday survival get you down.” So, I was cautioned always to stop and take a break at the first hint of a block, frustration, exhaustion, or depletion. Once I trained my mind to “go with the flow, ” I felt more balanced. So, it got easier to heed Mom’s suggestion. But all the while, I thought that her sage advice reflected living in today’s fast-paced, high-tech society.
Looking back at world history, humans have always been subject to the harsh realities of everyday survival. Both prehistoric humans and modern-day rural and urban dwellers have had to secure food and clean water, survive pestilence and plague, and defend against rival tribes and murderous warlords. Human survival has always depended on the ability to “go with the flow.” Going back to ancient times, the Chinese and Icelanders living in the Arctic Circle developed some convenient wisdom to benefit us all.
“Going with the flow” is age-old wisdom that focuses on allowing nature to take its course and letting things happen as they will. It also means God’s will and not my will, and that “God is in control”; or simply the expression of “Ka sera, sera, whatever will be, will be.” This mindset supports our acceptance of the current state of affairs and our hope that the outcome will be more pleasing.
The concept of Wu Wei coming from Chinese Taoist thought is also known as “The Way.” It focuses on “zero effort” as a means of “going with the flow.” In doing nothing, it gives the universe a role in allowing it to create the natural course of things. “The Way” constantly generates the universe and the method through which the person moves their life forward. Thus, “The Way” does nothing, and yet nothing in the universe and our lives goes unaccomplished. Most importantly, the Wu Wei philosophy counsels that those who have regrets from the past suffer from depression, and those who have fears about the future have anxiety, while those who keep their thoughts in the “now” are considered healthy.
The people of Iceland offer us another helpful view. About 20 years ago, I worked with a visiting Fulbright Fellow in psychology from Iceland. His name was Peter, and I remember that he shared his country’s national motto with our team. He used the term “þetta reddast.” It translates into English to mean “everything will work out okay.”
He said Icelanders always believe things will work out in the end. And no matter how big the problem, they believe a solution will always present itself. I asked why people living in the frigid cold would be so casual about everyday life? He said, “If you think about it, most things work out without much push-pull from any of us. In the frigid north, we have always depended on the love and support of family and friends, and the belief in God’s mercy to save us. So, we do not worry about anything.”
In the end, it makes no matter where you live because the worldwide wisdom of “going with the flow” offers us the awareness that it is essential to:
- Stop and take a breath.
- Know that whatever the Creator has for us is ours, and that
- Something better for us is always around the corner!