It is really difficult to detach from plans in this culture. It is very difficult to actually go with the flow, in a way that truly moves with life rather than in opposition to it.
I’ll give you an example.
Monday was supposed to be a work day for me. I wanted to put in at least six hours of billable time, plus take care of some administrative tasks that had been building up. I had spent the last three days with my children, and work — both the mundane, necessary tasks and the bigger, more generative creation — had been pushed off until Monday. It was easy to do that, because I knew I had a full day to get to it. Nonetheless, the list had already grown beyond the actual time I had available. I also wanted to take a little time for quiet: some meditation or a yoga class. I would have to choose what to prioritize, but I had about eight hours ahead of me, so I was anticipating a wonderful, productive day.
Then, my seven-year-old son woke up in the morning and said he was sick.
My husband Rick and I looked at each other and silently played the Rock-Paper-Scissors game: Which one of us would put our work plans on hold for the day, and stay home with our son?
Since Rick had work he needed to do at a client’s site, and I could do my work from home, I said I’d stay with Sam. I took our daughter to camp while Rick got ready to go to work when I returned.
The curveball: when I got home, my son turned out to be sick-ish. Meaning: he was now well enough to want to spend time with me. In particular, he wanted to go kayaking. When I reminded him that Dad and I had to work, and that I thought he was sick, his requests became more persistent. “Well yes, my throat hurts, but I don’t want to just lie around the house all day…! I want to go kayaking! With you!”
My husband and I glanced at each other. I could feel the frustration mounting. Didn’t he just say he was too sick to go to camp? Didn’t he hear that both Daddy and I have to work today? If he wanted to play and do things, why did he choose to stay home?
I ran through the available options: take him to camp, and head into my office to salvage what remained of the “work day” before picking him up (about 3.5 hours at that point); sit him in front of the TV with a movie, and try to work in the next room; or set aside my work — an enormous and growing pile — and be with him.
When I considered my options for salvaging my day, they were all based on keeping my grip on my plans: Getting the work done. But when I felt into the options that all prioritized my stranglehold on keeping my plans, I realized that each one had a clenchy energy signature, in one way or another.
The option to take my son to camp and go into my office might have, in theory, given me several uninterrupted hours. But the cost was the upset of turning around and going where I had just taken my daughter 35 minutes away, and fighting with a resistant son to get him to do something he didn’t want to do. So that was a no.
The option to park him in front of a movie could have worked, but immediately I saw the defensive posture I’d be in as I tried to protect my work time. Having worked many days at home while my children were younger, I know the torture of trying to concentrate when at any moment, a child would interrupt with a mild or urgent need, and the frustration of being pulled off task constantly. Trying to work while Sam was wanting my attention felt like a set-up, and sitting him in front of movies didn’t feel right when he was asking for my attention.
Giving up my work entirely felt as out of alignment as the other options. I was distracted by the tasks that were calling to me, and it didn’t feel true to me to just blow them off, broad stroke.
I breathed in. I breathed out. I sifted through the possibilities. I felt without thinking. And the answer came to me.
“Sam, I am going to set the timer for 75 minutes. During that time, I am going to work, and you must not disturb me. After that, we will go kayaking. Deal?”
“OK, but can you cut me a banana?”
“Yes, but after that, you must get your own snacks. I’ll start the timer after I cut your banana.”
I set the kitchen timer for 75 minutes, went upstairs, and prepared to work.
But first, I closed my eyes and meditated.
I felt into my awareness. I rested there. I observed the goings-on. Thought grew quiet. I grew quiet.
This shift helped me to come out of the busyness of the plans and the emotions of frustration, alarm, and code switching that had started our day.
This allowed the silt that had been stirred to settle, and again, for clarity to come. How to use 75 minutes when I was counting on six or eight hours of work time?
My pad was nearby. With my eyes still closed, I wrote down the list of tasks I needed to do in the next few days. Just words to prompt me. Then I picked the ones I could most easily accomplish in the time that remained, and I did them.
By the time 75 minutes had elapsed, I was sufficiently along my list to be able to stop with a clear heart. With the exception of one or two visits to my room, Sam had been able to honor my boundary; the timer let him know how much longer he had to wait, so he didn’t have to ask me. When the timer rang, I stopped my work, and Sam and I headed out to kayak.
The entire day flowed from that point forward. Sam respected my boundary, and I was productive and focused. When we left, we had a lovely afternoon of connection together and with the natural world. He was proud to show me around, as he had been kayaking there before with his dad. We headed first to the cove, and then out into the river. He pointed out the swans and the blue herons, and when I saw the adult and juvenile eagles, I was elated.
We finished our paddle in time for a popsicle nearby, and just in time again for me to pick up my daughter. Everything FLOWED.
How did we get there?
I let go of clinging to my plans. Not in a resigned way, but in a true surrender of my attachment to how the day would go. Only then did the inspired solution emerge.
Life was moving. Holding fast to my ideas about how the day would go was creating suffering, which I could tell by the feeling in my body as I contemplated each one. When I surrendered the need to know what the day was supposed to look like, that’s where clarity emerged. That clarity guided the day, and set us both up for ease.
Suffering is an energy block. Pushing through, clinging to plans, efforting all create blocks in the natural flow of energy. This shows up as “hard work” or stress or upset.
This is a story of how I navigated a real situation in daily life with a minimum of fuss and upset. And it’s a story of not deceiving ourselves about what surrender really is. Surrender is a powerful act; it is choosing to be present to what is, whatever that looks like. Resignation, which would have meant giving up my plans entirely, would have been a stealth form of resistance. The other options were a lot of physical or psychic effort, which was the sign that they weren’t in alignment.
Presence allowed me to feel each of these options. Surrender allowed a new option to emerge, the one that was truly in alignment. The result: a day of Divine flow. With popsicles.