What is downstream?
Wayne dyer before he died, described how life should be traveled downstream, with the flow of life. He gave the simple and beautiful advice that you should not fight against the currents of your life, instead turn downstream, or at least stop fighting them by paddling upstream, and let the river itself take you in the direction that you need to be going.
It is one of my favorite metaphors for how to live life, when you are going upstream, against the direction of the river, you are swimming hard but getting nowhere, you are efforting, you are putting energy into a pointless fight against the power and resistance of the river. It can feel good at times to effort, you can become strong and adapted to resist the flow of challenges, after all we have all been given the advice, what does not kill you makes you stronger.
However sooner or later you will get tired and then you will be pushed back by the uncaring and indifferent river. It does not care for your efforts, it will push back against you for as longer as you care to try, and it does not matter how far you managed to swim upstream before you run out of effort and energy, it has endless patience. It is relentless, it has been flowing for centuries before you were born and it will continue for centuries after you are gone. You are merely something that is in the way of it's eternal search for the direct way, a point of resistance which it merely side steps, it is totally indifferent, it shows us how we could be, it teaches you by the example of it's action, and yet we can only learn the lesson when we are ready.
It does not ponder about which way it flows, it merely flows in anyway it can towards the lowest energy state it can reach. It only ceases to flow when it has no energy to be released. When we turn downstream, we are turning in the direction of energy life is giving us. Instead of efforting and trying to force circumstances to lead us where we want to go, we can chose to flow with life, when something is easy, we can use our energy to guide our direction and if we want to end up on the left or right bank we can.
When we turn downstream, we get to practice how to be in a state of grace, easy and joy. We get to be in a state of being, when surfer use the power of the ocean by working with it, and when they are at their greatest, they get to have the experience of flow, that state without time or even a sense of self, it is raw unthought about experience. That is the promise of going downstream, it is to experience your life without the heaviness of efforting and pouring energy into standing still.
That is what we do, we spend so much energy into just protecting what we have and what we desire, we resist change. Lucky that resistance is also the warning sign that we are trying to head upstream. If we are not in a state of grace, easy and joy, if we have low energy, lack of motivation or frustation, that tells us to turn or at least stop the needless expense of efforting.
Just by stopping, we start to go downstream, even if it is backwards, we might feel like we are drowning for a moment but that is only because we are not use to the feeling of not having to put all our energy into going nowhere, the change of speed to the river's natural flow can be uncomfortable until we adjust to it.
When you feel resistance, stop, relax and let your mind float for a moment, mediation helps to stop the kicking of the mind. However if you are not ready for meditation, you can just take ten minutes to have a cup of coffee and actually enjoying it in that moment from the first sip to the last bit of foam. Then ask your mind, what would this look like if it was graceful, easy and joyful? Then try it, do not worry if it sounds implausible or too simple to work. That is what it should look like, life is simple and beautiful, sometimes we just forget to experience it.
However the ultimate test of this is to self-experiment with this idea, try it and see what life could be like, it is a low risk experiment, the worst that can happen is that something does not get done, and if that worries you, just ask what is the one thing that I need to do today, then give it your full awareness, again do not effort, wait until you are ready, in flow and an high energy state before you start and stick to your promise to wait for that moment. Whilst you are waiting, do whatever it is that gives you energy, it could be a walk, a chat with friends or listening to a podcast, what you are doing is trusting life to give you the high energy state instead of saying I want it now. This might be a bit of a shift for some people, they might point out that they have twenty things to do, but in reality is there really twenty important things to do or nineteen busy things and one important thing that never quite gets done. Doing one important thing everyday is probably more than most people do, Gary Keller in the “The One thing”, defined that one thing as the one thing that moves you towards your life goals or makes you life better. Which seems like a pretty good way to prioritize the things we want to do.
And if you think that it all sounds too easy, that life should be hard, do not worry when you stop resisting the river with all your effort, it does not mean there are no challenges in life, it is just that you get to face them with the power of the river behind you. You get to face life with both your own energy and the momentum that you have gain from the downstream current. Life can be as pleasant as drifting down the river in a boat if you let it.