To ebb and flow is to be in harmony with the rhythmical pattern of coming and going.
It’s the transition between retreat, regrowth, and back again.
We see it in the tides—water rising to soothe the shore and then out it goes again. It comes in the seasons—transitioning between birth, growth, blossom, death, hibernation, and rebirth. We learn to embrace these things, accepting them as natural phenomena. We find beauty in each season, knowing that each holds a purpose—some sprinkling of magic—that is somehow inaccessible within the others.
Ebb and flow occurs within us too, yet these transitions often leave us feeling sore and sensitive. As humans with incredible complexity within our inner worlds and in relation to our outer one, we experience comings and goings on a consistent basis. Rhythms live within our desires, our relationships, our yearnings, our creative callings, our mood, our need for space, and our cravings for companionship. Sometimes things flow and sometimes they ebb. To ebb—to recede—is often a painful and challenging place to sit in. To flow—to move forward—can present its own challenges as we face new life. It is here, in flow, that we must learn to say our difficult goodbyes.
As creatures subject to the same laws of nature as the waters and wild flowers, can we learn to embrace all phases of any cycle? The comings and the goings, the deaths and the rebirths, and the confusion that rests between each transition? How might we live in greater harmony with the changes we face?
Despite the changes we are faced with, there rests an underlying stillness that is always available to us. We might find it at the edge of the dock, legs crossed, eyes staring out across a lonely lake at dawn. We might find it with our back on the floor (or on the mat), palms up, with our attention brought to our breath and the strength of the floor that holds us. We might find it in a mid-afternoon slumber, curtains drawn shut, body and mind given a trip to dreamland, if only for a half an hour. Wherever we find ourselves, we may choose to find stillness for a moment, reconnecting with the calm beneath the chaos.
Lead with curiosity.
In these moments of instability and insecurity, we can open ourselves to the possibility of meaning—asking questions for purposeful answers. Rather than remaining attached to the past, we can ask questions that lead us to find beauty and reason in the shifts we encounter. For instance: What are we afraid to leave behind? What is there to learn from this experience? What are the positive aspects of this transition? What beauty is ready to be born? Leading with curiosity opens up the opportunity to view our world differently. With preconceived ideas screened at the door of our mind, we find freedom to relate to adversity on a deeper level.
When we release our expectations for what we should and should not be feeling, thinking, doing, and achieving, we open up space for greater understanding and compassion. Are we attempting to coerce our way out of the physical, emotional, or mental space we find ourselves in? We do not argue with weather in Winter (well, we may try, but we more easily accept its reality than we do the reality of our own dark moments). Our inner landscape is not so different from that of the forest, subject to the same transitions between light and dark, cold and warmth, hibernation and expression. Growth and retreat. Ebb and flow. Here, within our understanding of this fundamental nature, we may grow into our peace again.
As the great poet Mary Oliver puts it:
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”