3 Daily Practices for Flowing with Life

“I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.”
—John O’Donohue

In his poem “The Guest House,” the great Sufi mystic Rumi encourages us to welcome and entertain all the unexpected visitors:

… meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from beyond.

Is it truly possible to welcome and entertain all the pain, suffering, anger, irritation, confusion, fear, sorrow, and even the joy?

Is it truly possible to merge with the underlying natural order of the universe, to come into harmony with the waters of nature and reason, and flow freely with the great river of life?

A mini exercise for your mind: Consider shifting your lens of perception; instead of thinking of something in your life as being done to you, what if something is being done for you? Perhaps life is actually on your side. The life that presents itself right now is asking for your nonjudgmental, loving attention. Everything that is arising is here for you, to help you heal, grow, learn, shift, change, love, and evolve into your fullest potential … even when life feels like crap.

This is a reframe for the mind, a very different way to approach and navigate life. There is tremendous power in consciously aligning to the mysterious “laws” of creation. It takes courage and willingness to open to what is truly happening, versus what we want to happen. It requires that we absolutely let go of trying to fix, manage, control, and manipulate things. This is the art of flowing with life.

When we get caught in the loop of resisting life—the swirl of control, or swimming upstream—we evoke the reaction of threat and danger, the idea that something is bad or wrong. This signals our nervous system to go into fight-flight-freeze mode. We lose the ability to see clearly what is true and real, and get lost in fear-based stories and negative habits and patterns. This further activates the stress response, carving deeper grooves within the mind-body-heart matrix.

One of the key elements of mindfulness practices is the invitation to align and awaken the wisdom of the mind and heart so they work together harmoniously. We can do this by asking the wisdom question, In this moment, what is happening? and the heart question Whatever is arising, how can I be with this in a nonjudgmental way? Consider this prayer from the Buddhist tradition: May whatever arises serve the awakening of mind and heart/wisdom and compassion. May whatever is going on in our lives, whatever circumstances, may they serve.

Once again: Everything is happening for you, and we have the opportunity to say yes to all that life has to offer. Yes, I can be with this. Yes, I welcome this. Yes, I am paying attention. Yes, I care. We shift from a state of reaction and stress into a state that Tara Brach calls “attend and befriend.” “Yes” begins to open the channel to allow life to teach us and usher us into a greater, more loving expression of self.

As we learn and practice flowing with the rivers of life, we become more skillful, resilient, resourceful, caring, and able to self-regulate the waves both internally and externally. Over time and through mindfulness techniques, we develop the capacity to fine-tune the mind-body stress response. This strengthens the inner muscle so it is able to more easily adapt to all that life throws our way. Awakening the healing power of acceptance is a key ingredient in this process.

Ultimately, we arrive at a deeper remembering of the great order of creation. We are forever changing and there are cycles to everything. Beginnings, endings, births, deaths, thresholds, desires, homecomings, and the mystery beyond. As Albert Einstein said, “Look to nature and it will help you better understand everything.”

Anything is possible when we allow the space for this precious life to be present, express, and pour through us.

Just like our human lives, the journey of every river has stages, in which each is a part of the whole. Dive in, let the waters take you for a ride, learn to swim with the tides, trust the twists and turns, be surprised by the path, and effortlessly flow with the never-ending stream, the great mystery of life.

Here are three daily practices to support you in flowing with life.

Yes Mantra Meditation

This heart-based practice that cultivates the ability to allow and accept the changing waters of experience and life to live and flow through you.

  • Find a time and place to pause.
  • You may want to place a hand on your heart as a gesture of connection and care.
  • Repeat to yourself silently, "Yes, yes, yes.”

By saying yes, we begin to open our hearts to life just the way it is. Yes to sounds, smell, people, trees, animals. Yes to thoughts and feelings. Yes to uncertainty, confusion, excitement, and happiness. Yes to make room for whatever is happening inside and out.

Positive Self-Talk

The way you speak to yourself matters. Talk to yourself as you would a loved one. Every time you recognize self-talk that comes from a place of shame, blame, or judgment, is it possible to reframe and replace with language that is more affirming, nurturing, and supportive?

Self-Discovery Journaling

Write freely on one or more of these questions:

What is the greatest version of myself that I can be today?
What is life bringing to my door?
What am I learning; what is the opportunity?
What if nothing is wrong? Who am I when there is not a problem?

Jess Frey (she/her), E-RYT 1000, is a Kripalu Yoga educator, life coach, and artist known for her authenticity, motivation, and depth.

Full Bio and Programs