Updated: Jan 28
The other day I was playing my guitar in the living room when all of a sudden my partner called me into the kitchen. Outside the window, on our neighbour's rooftop, there was a beautiful bird doing a weird, funny walk on the slanted portion of the roof.
My partner and I shared a laugh, and then just kept watching the adventure of that lady bird. At some point she flapped her wings, just a couple of times, barely enough to get up in the air, and then kept them open while the wind, which was blowing quite strongly, carried her swiftly and gracefully over the rooftop.
I was mesmerised.
That bird just gave us a life lesson. And that was how easy life can be, when we flow with it, when our actions are in harmony with the natural flow of this universe.
That bird could have flapped her wings all the way up to the top, of course. However, in doing so, she would have made an enemy out of the wind. She would have had a goal to reach and a trajectory to follow, but the wind would have made it difficult for her to stay on the path, to follow the plan.
Instead, by simply surrendering to the wind at the right time, she effortlessly got to the top. She just had to keep her wings open for a moment, and the wind did all the work.
We can learn a lot from her.
Sometimes we spend so much energy following our objectives, our goals. Often, after deciding what is the next thing we want to achieve, we make plans and then we push and push and work really really hard to see those plans fulfilled. We stubbornly keep our heads down, and pour all our energy into that task. Trying to reach the goal, trying to stay on the path we have envisioned.
Rarely we stop, even for a brief moment, to see if we should adjust the path, or even reconsider if our goal is still worth achieving. This becomes increasingly difficult the more time and effort we have invested in the task.
However, instead of behaving this way, we could take example from that bird. In doing so, we might discover that often there is another way to achieve our goals. One that requires much less effort, but it also requires us to surrender to something in life: an idea; a concept; a person; a situation; whatever. Something that when fought is a massive hindrance, but when surrendered to can turn into great help.
Is the concept of flow also important when we practice the system of Reiki, or meditation, or any other spiritual discipline that can support our personal development? I think it is very important. In fact, it is crucial! When we fail to surrender, the goal we're trying to achieve becomes the very reason we won't achieve it.
The Tibetans instruct us it like this: when you are on a spiritual path, you need to have a goal. So you put it in front of you and then (and this is the crucial point) you have to forget about it. Zen masters instruct us that our practice has to be goal-less.
The Japanese often say: just practice. One way of understanding this saying is that we shouldn't care about the experience. Good, bad, warm, cold, tingling, no tingling, visions, colours... None of them are important. Forget about them, and just keep practicing.
But another meaning of that instruction is that our practice should be goal-less. We shouldn't have any goals in mind, when we practice.
Time out. Isn't all this a little bit of a paradox? Not at all.
We do need a goal. For example, as Reiki practitioners, we might have the goal of achieving anshin ritsumei: spiritual awakening, or complete inner peace. That would be our goal. And the purpose of that goal is to motivate us to sit down and practice.
Now if we sit down and instead of just practicing, we start thinking about it, or expecting it to happen, or trying to force it to happen, we're only setting ourselves up for failure. Expectations lead to disappointment and frustration, stress, even anger. We're never going to find inner peace this way. Many people practice this way, and this explains why at some point they all drop out or, at best, practice very sparingly.
However, if we simply sit down, and just practice with no goal in mind, then there won't be any expectations, tension, frustration, and this gradually leads to progress. When we are relaxed, and trust the instructions we have, then day after day our awareness develops organically, spontaneously.
We might not realise it, but the goal and the practice are one. It is often very hard for us, westerners, to grasp this concept. We are too used to thinking that to achieve anything we need to make an effort, we need to have the goal very clear in mind, we need to see progress regularly, and things like that.
But when we follow a spiritual path, things don't work this way. Sometimes we sit for a year without feeling the slightest change within ourselves, and then one day, all of a sudden something moves, and we become aware that there has been a tremendous change.
This way of progressing is unacceptable if we are a CEO who wants to see deadlines met, and return on investment.
So, when practicing, and in life, we should try and be a bit more like that bird on the roof. We should have a goal so we are motivated to sit down, but then we should forget about it, and simply dedicate ourselves with full trust in the process, in the instructions, surrendering instead of stubbornly insisting that things have to happen the way we envisioned, and when we envisioned.
This way life becomes much easier and we get to the top of the roof very quickly, effortlessly, gracefully, just like that bird, who reminded me of this profound lesson and showed me so much beauty, with just two flaps of her wings.