Staying in the Fluid

Reflections of Commonwealth Avenue on a Boston University poster with a life of its own

Discovering the selfless nature doesn’t have a monumental “Eureka!” quality. It is more like being continually perplexed, the way we feel when we’re looking for the car keys we’re so sure are in our pocket, or when the supermarket’s being renovated and what we need has moved to a different aisle each time we go shopping. That experience of being somewhat dumbfounded is the beginning of wisdom. We’re beginning to see through our ignorance—the everyday vigil we sustain to confirm that we exist in some permanent way. We look at our mind and see that it is a fluid situation, and we look at the world and see that it is a fluid situation. Our expectation of permanence is confounded.

–Sakyong Mipham

This passage is from Sakyong Mipham‘s book, Ruling Your World: Ancient Strategies For Modern Life. While this articulation of life as a “fluid situation” speaks to all aspects of consciousness, it is an approach that has been of particular value to me in the realm of creativity and the act of making.

Mipham’s concept of perpetual fluidity is similar to Pema Chödrön‘s use of the word groundlessness. She has written about its importance in her classic, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.

A few wise words from Chödrön:

To seek for some lasting security is futile. Suffering begins to dissolve when we question the belief or hope that there’s anywhere to hide.

For those who want something to hold onto, life is even more inconvenient. From this point of view, seeking security can become an addiction. We’re all addicted to hope—hope that the doubt and uncertainty will go away. This addiction has a painful effect on society: a society based on lots of people addicted to getting ground under their feet is not a very compassionate place.

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again.

When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something. We might realize that this is a very vulnerable and tender place, and that tenderness can go either way. We can shut down and feel resentful or we can touch in on that throbbing quality.

9 Replies to “Staying in the Fluid”

  1. Rachael Eastman says:

    We forget that states of mind and circumstances don’t own us. Each wave undulates through releasing the illusion of control.This presence while painting,..while living,( and loving) A beautiful posting, particularly just after viewing Turner’s perilous waves.

    1. deborahbarlow says:

      I know you are drinking from the same cool mountain stream Rachael… Thank you for your comment.

  2. Maria von Brincken says:

    Deborah. I’m amazed how in sync we are. I’m in the midst if writing a song about the discovery of this fluidity. You’ve written just in time to offer me different word choices that will affect everything. Thank you!

  3. Thanks, Deborah. I needed these words today.

    1. deborahbarlow says:

      I know I did. Thanks Diane. xoxo

  4. Wonderful quotes!

  5. deborahbarlow says:

    Thank you Maureen, I so appreciate your agreement.

  6. dipittsburgh says:

    I was once told that balancing was an act of constantly adjusting. Thank you for you wisdom, Deb!

  7. Janette Paull says:

    Thanks for your thoughts and introducing me to two great spiritual teachers.

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