When life is accelerating all around us, we can feel the need to be at our “best” constantly...as if, were we to slip up even once, we’d fall behind, drowning in the rushing waters of a non-stop life. Inevitably, we fail because we are human. It’s impossible to be at the top of our game all of the time and trying to do so leads to a roller-coaster cycle of incomplete successes and self-imposed failures:
We can find ourselves working so hard to keep up with the current that we miss the simple joys and beauty that we pass along the way. Having succeeded in keeping up with the acceleration of our world, we are still incomplete because we’ve missed the benefits of our journey. Without mindful appreciation of the present, no matter how fast it seems to be moving by, we fail to gather the food that nourishes our soul, the small blessings, the joy in our connectedness...
Eventually, our soul begins to wither and we feel tired. Even our successes seem tinged with disappointment over the things we missed in our rush to keep pace. We begin creating our own failures as we self-destruct in a desperate effort by our soul to get us to slow down and tend to our Self.
For many of us, these are the moments of our lives that we keep hidden from the outside world. We experience our crises of the soul in silence, gather ourselves up, and jump back in to the river, swimming with all our might towards the opposite shore where those beacons of “success” await...beginning the cycle again.
What if we stopped swimming, though? What do you think would happen if, instead of swimming so vigorously, trying to be at our best all of the time, we simply relaxed and let the momentum carry us along?
There’s an old story about a Taoist who encounters a river in his path: While his companions gather their strength and swim across the current towards the other side, the Taoist jumps into the river without hesitation and allows himself to be swept downstream, content and secure that, eventually, he’ll reach the place he is supposed to end up. He may not achieve the same goal he initially set out to achieve or the same goal as his traveling buddies, but, for him, the journey itself is the ultimate goal.
When I begin to feel the pressure of the quickening of time and acceleration of changes, I like to think of that Taoist. I try to imagine what he would do when he inevitably finds himself in the rapids. He may be moving downstream quickly, but he is relaxed, floating on the water, taking in and appreciating the entirety of his experience. Just like a piece of driftwood, though, he would be pulled under. Instead of struggling, the Taoist would do nothing different than he had when his head was above water, other than hold his breath.
Trusting in the unknown, allowing himself to go under - to see the underside of the water, the darker side of himself and all of us...to embrace it with equal detachment and admiration as any moment on his journey – the Taoist rises to the surface quicker and is able to savor every part of his adventure.
The rapids of life need not compel us to fight or retreat. The end to the cycles of success and failure, of vigilant ambition and hidden defeat are within the story of this Taoist: In the face of life’s constant acceleration, struggling, pushing ourselves so hard we forget to be mindful, can only make us sink. Instead, like the Taoist, we need only relax and enjoy the ride.
Christina James is Editor in Chief of Aquarius News. With a penchant for passion, spirituality, and culture, she is dedicated to living and writing with authenticity and love.