Goal of FlowBy PHIL WITTMEYER & Others
Also Known As Stagnation, Relaxation & Equalibrium
Examine the other goals in the Michael teachings and you notice they either seek to inspire, express, or act. With the goal of flow, however, the focus is assimilation. Similar to the scholar that absorbs experience like a sponge, the goal of flow seeks to absorb life without defiance. It doesn’t try to grow from it, reject it, accept it, or dominate it; the intention is to follow the path of least resistance. If taken to extremes, though, this path may lead to inertia, a stagnated state where nothing flows.
Common characteristics are an easy-going and relaxed nature, usually devoid of the intensity and stress encountered by the other goals. Look for a calm and casual facial expression coupled with a temperament that’s good-humored and not concerned with the hubbub of life. George Gershwin’s song “Biden’ My Time” may be the perfect musical anthem for someone in flow.
This should not imply that the goal of flow is a life of leisure. Day to day living brings the same storms and tribulations that afflict all souls. The goal is not a special endowment that shields you from adversity, nor does it provide a get out of jail free card. Life still happens. The difference is that the goal teaches you not to lock horns or immediately put up a fight when obstacles or misfortune come your way. When someone constantly struggles with this goal and their daily disposition is the mirror opposite of anything relaxed or fun-loving, it usually shows they are not LEARNING to flow. This is the neutral goal. You strive to flow with whatever life brings rather than cross swords with it or tip the scales.
Success in this endeavor leads to REST, which is the desire of all that have this goal. Indeed, flow is often the drug of choice after a series of exceptionally active or stressful past lives.
Michael (through me) offered the following:
The goal of flow is the goal of non-resistance.
In some ways, flow is the least understood goal in the teachings.
The incentive behind the goal is to meet life on its own terms, flow wherever that leads, and trust the destination. With a contract that simple, the only requirement is to live the life. It’s like taking a class in summer school, but there are no tests, no final exams and no grades. The course syllabus is blank; the curriculum stands before you. What you choose to learn is up to you. You are technically enrolled in class — what some of you refer to as the school of hard knocks — but lets suggest a hall pass is issued to wander the building without supervision, spend time in the library, raid the cafeteria, and get extended breaks more often than those with other goals. If your pursuits offer a reprieve from the bustle of life, the choice is valid. If your wanderings lead to interests you wouldn’t have time for when class was in session, consider your pursuit essence-approved. The key to your success is to face life without resistance and find joy in the act of living it.
Many students with this goal, however, resist life, especially when given approval to explore more of it than allowed in previous lifetimes. There’s a natural distrust of such freedom, as if permission was granted by accident and it was all a horrible mistake. As a result, students often sabotage the goal, not seeing the opportunity, not realizing the potential, and oppose their situation, fighting against it with every cell of their being, and creating a living nightmare for themselves, often worse than the challenges they faced with other goals.
Positive Pole (Suspension)
In the positive pole of SUSPENSION, your life is generally free flowing, unruffled, and there exists a trust that things will work out the way they should. Contentious activities that lead to drama and strife are deferred, whenever possible, in favor of rest. The life may still seem hectic but fewer attempts to put up a fight or control where everything leads amounts to more peaceful outcomes. Why swim upstream when you can stroll along the shore?
Remember that flow teaches you how to drift with the natural currents of life and follow the path of least resistance when confronted by obstacles. An eagle that soars through the air on a mighty updraft can effortlessly ride that current for miles. Model that grace in your own life when faced with adversity. Let go of the reins and let life guide you.
This should not mean a life in flow is directionless. To illustrate, imagine your life as a kite suspended in the sky.
Your kite appears to ebb and flow on a current of air, but to keep the craft anchored so it doesn’t tailspin into the ground, the line to the kite maintains some control and equilibrium. In plain English, even in flow, you make subtle adjustments to deal with whatever life brings your way. If your kite takes an unexpected detour, you make a course correction. You do what is necessary to stay in the flow. You pay your bills, feed your pets, change the oil, and so on. Flow doesn’t mean life carries no responsibilities. Making course corrections in how your life flows is part of the process.
If you have a little understanding about music, another way to look at suspension is in those “sus” chords you see in some harmonic progressions. These suspended chords have a note that is held over from resolving to another chord. In a C major triad, instead of C E G, it’s C F G.
The note held over, or suspended, creates a compelling tension of delay. “Sus” chords when unresolved, a sound you increasingly hear in modern music these days, have an ambiguous and ethereal quality. They momentarily obscure the center of the key. In a visual sense, they’re like a low-hanging cloud that drifts across a landscape and imbues the scene with a misty haze.
A life in flow can also have that unresolved, delayed quality. Because life intervenes with its medley of gentle and not so gentle nudges, a tension exists to stimulate some movement, to chart a course, but like the wandering cloud, a life in flow is content to merely drift.
Negative Pole (Inertia)
In the negative pole of INERTIA, an attempt to exert enormous amounts of effort fighting against something replaces the ability to flow with the least amount of effort, and with negative results. You no longer weather the storm, you bare arms against it and struggle piteously. This makes life tiresome and difficult. You become stuck. Opportunities are lost and life seems to pass you by. Comparisons made with others who are more ambitious or listening to the dour voices of detractors who think you have done nothing with your life can implant feelings of failure. This further strengthens the deleterious effects of the negative pole.
If the chief features muscle in, blocking all attempts to revive the goal from its torpidity, inertia becomes like a form of decay: a stagnant pond that reeks with decomposing organisms, blood stops flowing through tissue and gangrene sets in.
It doesn’t matter if the inertia results from fears of inadequacy, such as self-deprecation; fears of being judged, such as arrogance; or a refusal to budge on something, the chief feature of stubbornness. The result is the same. The personality is cut off from essence and the life wastes away.
Michael shared the following about inertia.
With inertia, the ability to flow becomes obstructed. Here, the mechanics bear similarity to physics where an object at rest stays at rest, an object in motion stays in motion. When the goal of flow is no longer in motion, or worse, hopelessly stuck, the worthwhile pursuits of the goal are exposed and become an easy target for all the things in life that bring unnecessary struggle. More friction ensues and the fruitful purpose of the goal deteriorates, resulting in a loss of energy and the impetus to engage with life. Think of a battalion of soldiers that march in place for so long they become entrenched in one spot, busy going nowhere.
Entrenchment is the antithesis of flow and a constant bedfellow of inertia. Over time, the negative effects suggest a dying meteor caught in the gravitational pull of the earth, its orbit slowly decaying in the atmosphere where it incinerates in a fiery flash — except in the negative pole of inertia there’s never a fiery flash, just the interminable dullness of inactivity.
The Spiritual Lesson of Flow
The spiritual lesson of flow is LETTING GO. This works hand in hand with the equally important discipline of learning to live in the present moment.
Letting go is a wonderful way to release old attachments to things that weigh you down in life. Your emotional debris, most of it from the distant past, builds tension in your body each time you revisit it. This not only blocks your ability to flow but creates unnecessary pain. A resurrection of angry feelings can, overtime, suck you into your own black hole of personal misery.
Of course, changing your operation manual after so many years is easier said than done. But little is gained by not letting go of the past. It depletes your life force and makes you a victim of your own life’s circumstances. Temporarily reliving those injuries and blaming others for your misfortunes may feel cathartic, but it ultimately does not grant you any freedom, and ensures you are chained to those wrongs forever. This not only creates more inertia for you, it may lead to illness and disease.
I once asked Michael what was the solution then? Should you love life despite the pain it has caused? This was their answer.
When you love life without negative attachments or expectations, you have found the equilibrium, a place of calmness and grace where all you do is follow the flow. In this sense, loving life means you flow with the narrative in all its multifarious guises and costumes — the show is over, so to speak, and you are no longer the playwright arguing with the director about the changes he made to your script.
To further illustrate, we do not mean that souls become so enraptured with life that they’ll love wasting away with a disease. Instead, a state of nonresistance develops where the fragment stops clinging to attachments of misfortune and hardship, and embraces the variegated scenery that life brings — regardless of the view.
It should come as no surprise that hardships in life are a fundamental part of the physical plane, and while considerable effort to alleviate that harshness is understandable, few souls ever escape without cuts and bruises, or worse.
Learning to love life despite these pitfalls is not about avoiding struggle, but facing adversity minus fear. It’s a choice if you vehemently cry out about everything wrong with your life, as much as it’s a choice if you dwell on those areas that bring you happiness. We know of souls, for example, who achieved all the things they ever wanted, yet allowed any feelings of joy to slip through their grasp. We have also seen souls in abject poverty find joy in the simplest of pleasures, such as feeding feral cats, or reveling in the sun’s warmth on their back as they picked through garbage. Joy is truly relative.
Loving life does not mean excluding what you perceive as bad, but fearlessly including what you encounter as part of the all-encompassing arc of your existence. It is about finding joy in the struggle.
Notice how vibrant life can feel after a period of pain has passed. It’s like a spring shower that washes away the debris from winter. There are similar cycles of cleansing in every incarnation. Learn to accept them and embrace the feelings of renewal that follows.
One of the many perks of flow is that individual talents often bubble to the surface when you’re in the present moment and may flow effortlessly. Fame and the goal of flow, understandably, form less frequent alliances; but, without the challenges typically associated with the other goals, flow allows an unfettered exploration of diverse talents that may lead to fame. Career paths fall into place, and although an actor or Broadway singer’s life may look extremely busy, allowing a particular talent to flow can be restorative and restful — even if the life seems full.
The typical trappings of life, such as marriage with kids, a cutting-edge career, and anything that requires constant change and adaptation, may get set aside. Burn-out runs high with this goal. The intensity and wear-and-tear of life can have a debilitating effect on someone in flow. They can work just as hard as anyone else, but their internal need for space and quiet reflection may eventually lead to a crash and frequent setbacks. Downtime is needed for those in flow that hit a wall. They must find a proper balance.
In the end, if you don’t fight the current and the exigencies of life don’t intervene, you may get some rest with this goal. Where the other goals try to make things happen, the goal of flow is to be nonresistant things that happen. It is a state of surrender — although not devil-may-care — and you trust that life will work out in the long run if you don’t get in the way. You relinquish your control over the rudder and surrender (within reason) to wherever the current leads you. The flow of life is now, in effect, your rudder.
Michael (through me), once said the following about living in the present, which is a valuable discipline to develop if you desire to stay in the flow.
Living in the present could aptly be described as a contented cat that’s curled into a ball and warming itself by a fire. Much can be learned by observing cats. They live in the present more than any creature we know. All animals live in the present, of course, but cats, in particular, have turned it into an art form. Neither concerned about the past or the future, cats forever focus on the “now.” With a grace and agility in life similar to a ballet dancer, the cat dances through its existence as if the music never stops. This may sound exhausting to some of you, but understand the cat is a creature of the moment; it never concerns itself with future moments or moments that have slipped away. The cat simply IS.
We see living in the past, on the other hand, as a giant canvas, splashed chaotically with the emotions of distant yearnings, lost relationships, and self-resurrecting fears. Much can be gained, of course, by honoring those lessons learned, but to escape those ghost worlds of former selves — even selves from only five minutes ago — it’s important to release the shackles of WHAT WAS.
Conversely, living in the future is like hanging a frame on your wall without a canvas. You anxiously live your life concerned about the canvas not painted, yet continue to decorate your walls with empty frames. Only in the present will your painting — one brush stroke at a time — reach completion.
A suggested exercise (if you’re not averse to taking a walk) can be found on your local park bench. First, find your bench. Then, quiet your mind and just LISTEN.
Imagine every sound you hear as a musical instrument and listen to the uniqueness of each rhythmic phrase. Every sound you hear sings the symphony of the present: you can hear it in the plaintive whisper of the leaves, in the festive interludes of birds, or the playful prattle of children. And if you listen carefully, a world that has long escaped you will gradually reveal itself.
Although it may not be convenient, the enterprising among you could try this with all five of the senses. The goal, however, is to tune your awareness to whatever happens in the present moment. For example, how many instruments in this symphony, figuratively speaking, can you hear, see, touch, taste, and feel?
After you have the musical score of this grand work stretched out in front of you, imagine yourself actually playing the instruments that you sense: be the tree that bends in an ancient posture of servitude; be the crow that mocks with pundits from above; be the muddy pond that patiently waits below; be the silence that drifts over the park in sleepy shadows.
To live in the present, you only need to sense the pulse of everything around you — this is the rhythm of life. And when you live in the present, YOU are the conductor.
More on Flow
The original name of this Goal is "stagnation", but to me this word has a negative connotation, whereas the Goal is in fact neither positive nor negative. The word "equilibrium" conveys this sense of neutrality more accurately, I think, but recently the term "Flow" has been more widely used with this goal. Whatever the name, a person with this Goal prefers for things to run smoothly: neither starting nor stopping, increasing or decreasing, amalgamating or proliferating. He wants to avoid causing disruptions in the normal order of things: it is uncomfortable for him to create a stir. His basic purpose in life is to relieve stress, or avoid it.
People who do not have this Goal perceive a person with this Goal as purposeless — a life going nowhere. Indeed, it often seems to others that he has no ambition except ease and contentment. He is quite comfortable with maintaining the status quo, going along with the existing system, preserving the present state of affairs, just as it is. The advantage of this is that the person is rather stable and dependable — not much changes in his life. The disadvantage is that, even though he doesn't let things go down hill, neither is the person likely to make things go up hill — making progress or improvement.
Balance is another big issue for people in this Goal. If things drift or get pushed out of balance, that is when they spring into action, to restore the natural order. They also tend to live in the moment, rather than in the past or the future. This is a typical Goal for people in bureaucracy, since one main goal of government is to maintain or restore order, and so many laws are intended to define fairness and justice. In other endeavors, Flow shows up in a person as a drive for standardization and neatness.
There is no complement to the Goal of Flow, but there is a counterpart, the Observation Mode. Flow seeks what Observation has, to be uninvolved or disconnected from the events, feelings, and thoughts going on all around.
The Positive Pole of this Goal was originally called "suspension". I think this referred to the balance place between two opposing forces. Any object held in suspension is not at either extreme of "positive" or "negative". A person held in "suspense" does not know what the outcome will be or which way things will go. A person in this Pole is constantly searching for this balance point rather than leaning one way or the other. Polarizing forces are avoided rather than sought.
I favor calling the positive pole +Neutrality, since this word seems to me to be more easily understandable to most people. The Positive Pole is the active Pole, so a person in this Pole actively seeks justice. It is when he perceives that things are not fair that he works to make them so. If a "debt" of any kind exists, it should be paid. He is very concerned with equality — all exchanges must be just and equitable. He doesn't want to owe anything, nor have others owing him. You might say he goes through life with a ledger book, keeping track of all the transactions and making sure he breaks even, neither in the red nor in the black. He seeks the so-called "happy medium", the "middle of the road", so that he experiences neither excess nor deprivation. He shies away from all extremes, and pursues moderation in everything. Whatever the situation, he tries to do the appropriate thing, which will cause no disruption of the existing order. He does not "rock the boat", and if the boat is rocking, he wants it to stop rocking. "Don't make waves" is a good motto for this Pole.
The Negative Pole of this Goal is called "inertia". In physics terminology, this is the tendency of matter to resist a change in the nature of its motion — an object at rest takes work to get moving. When applied to people, it usually refers to someone who is sluggish, slow, lethargic, and phlegmatic — it is difficult to get them moving also.
The Negative Pole has also been called -Stagnation. Either way, in the negative the person is difficult to motivate. He will refuse to get off dead center. Decisions are made on the basis of least effort — finding the path of least resistance. The tendency is to take the easy way out of a difficult situation. He really cherishes his noninvolvement. He will procrastinate as long as he can, and then he does no more than required to restore ease and comfort. Unless he is really pushed hard by circumstance, he will coast through life in a leisurely fashion. To others who have ambition, it seems he dilly-dallies, deliberately wasting time, accomplishing as little as possible. This is an accurate perception. In the extreme cases, he is a "slowpoke", a "goof-off", or a drifter. In any case, he does not like "work", even to work for things he likes. The way to overcome this Pole is to contemplate and apply the Positive Poles of all the other Goals, since Flow is the Neutral Goal. Choose one that feels right or fits the situation, and go with it. Do something with the purpose of +Dedication, +Leadership, +Efficiency, +Unfoldment, +Discrimination, or +Unification — whichever it be, just do something.
The Goal of Not Having a Goal
The goal of flow tends to make for a life shape that meanders; it's a life that has a little bit of this and a little bit of that, since it's the goal of not having a goal. It's not moving inexorably to a particular point in time.
The purpose of the goal of flow is to learn how to let things happen rather than making them happen, as opposed to a goal of growth, for instance, which is more about making things happen. In growth, you are called to take the bull by the horns and master it, rising to your challenges by working hard. It has the number six (cardinal inspiration axis) quality of being busy. In contrast, the neutral, number four (assimilation axis) goal is like driving a car and learning to balance braking with acceleration to get the best results: working, but not too hard. It's the middle way, the neutral way of being. It also can be used to slide to any of the other goals, so sometimes it's chosen for that purpose. You might temporarily slide to dominance, temporarily to submission, and so forth. The goal of flow might be chosen in order to have a rest life, but not necessarily, and few people actually have easy lives on this challenging planet. However, it is rare for someone with this goal to struggle for long for the basics such as food and shelter if she is willing to let go to the flow of life, even if there are plenty of internal struggles (which might reflect soul age, life plan, karma, etc.)
In general, our goal is more about our relationship with our life situations than about our relationship with ourselves. For example, people in the positive pole of flow seem to have an easier time making a living and otherwise getting along in the world than those with other goals. I sometimes joke that flow is the goal that the rest of us wish we had chosen. I know one scholar in flow, for example, who receives disability income for a relatively minor injury, and has flowed from one house-sitting or other rent-free situation to another for a few years. This has given her more opportunity to study and do deep inner work. However, I don’t think that her inner process has been easier than anyone else’s. We all have parts of ourselves that need healing.
Channeling About Flow
The neutral goal, on the assimilation axis, is called "flow." Its original name was "stagnation." Again, that sounds like a bad thing, but a still pond that has various things floating on it can be a beautiful example of stagnation: it's not going anywhere, it is just being. However, to be stagnant as a personality is generally understood as being stuck, which is the negative pole of this goal, "inertia," as opposed to simply resting or being held up by the water. Others have called this goal "relaxation" or "equilibrium." It is the neutral goal, but that may seem like an oxymoron: if you have a goal, you are not neutral. However, you could think of it as the goal of not having a goal, setting up your life without a directed one.
There are different ways this can affect a life. We have spoken of how growth can slide to reevaluation, and vice-versa, and so forth with the other goals. Flow, being on the assimilation axis, can slide to any of the other goals. Some people who have this neutral goal temporarily do various other goals throughout life, giving them flexibility in how their life is shaped. A soul who does not slide a great deal is having a rest life or is simply working on learning to flow.
In the positive pole, "suspension," people in flow let themselves be carried on the surface of the water, however it wants to move them, not passively, but not insisting on a particular outcome too rigidly. When they flow, things tend to work out. The highest form of this goal is surrendering to the universe, letting the highest good dictate how you move in your life. There is ease and relaxation
The negative pole, "inertia," is the opposite, being stuck. In inertia, one has too much weight; it is a rock that sinks to the bottom and stays in the mud rather than a leaf that is gently moved by the current; it is overly passive. In the positive pole, one is responsive to the subtle currents; one perceives how they are moving and can sense what the right thing is. Sometimes the flow is more active, and sometimes, quieter.
In flow, one seeks to find the natural order of things and feel part of the whole, trusting that it will find your right place for you. People with this goal tend to have a life with a little of this and a little of that. They may, for example, have several different careers that they meander in and out of.
In the positive pole, the person is a dance partner like Ginger Rogers following the lead of Fred Astaire, but in this case, Fred Astaire is life itself, she is responding to its movements. In the negative pole, instead of being Ginger Rogers, one is an inert blob, not responding.
Q. How does the goal reflect the life task?
A. With a goal of flow, it is intended that you do your task in a more fluid way.
Q. I've found that the negative pole of flow can manifest as a resistance to going with the flow, which leads to a lot of turbulence, as well as excessive passivity, which leads to stuck-in-a-rut stagnation.
A. They are the same thing.
All the assimilation axis traits can either be airborne or earthbound. This includes the scholar role, the chief obstacle of stubbornness (obviously), the attitude of pragmatist, and so forth. Its very neutrality dictates that possibility. If you have more than one trait on the assimilation axis, that tendency is increased. You want to avoid the stuck or plodding quality that the negative pole can impart, and seek the lightness and elevation of the positive.
A ballroom dancer who is swept off her feet in the flow of a dance is not passive, and it is not as easy as a good dancer makes it look. Effectively doing the goal of flow is not necessarily all that easy. There are many things in life that can trap you and make you stuck. To be life's dance partner, to be nimble and airborne, requires work, but it is not the same kind of work as with the other goals. Being neutral, it is active and passive at the same time; it is not just passive. Being just passive is being stuck, and being just active here leads to spinning your wheels, like a car stuck in the mud, exerting a lot of effort but not going anywhere. In inertia, your life feels sticky; you're in the mud. In the positive pole, it feels like you can breathe fresh air.
The right blend of active and passive is the perfect equilibrium of the assimilation axis, and it is not easy to achieve, but when you have achieved it, there is a sense of ease in your life. You are not making things happen, but are a part of something larger. You are turning, and as you turn, other things are turning as well. You fit into the whole.
Shepherd Hoodwin -- From Michael On Goals
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About Phil Wittmeyer
Phil is a long-time Michael student who has written several book-length manuscripts about the Michael teachings, many of them featured on this site. He has been an active member in the community for many years and can be found at most Michael gatherings.
Phil currently lives in Colorado.
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