I am a professional evaluator by training and practice and have ready many thousands of pages of text on the topics of evaluation and program development. I find myself drawn to working with strategies that are novel, creative, bold and that have the goal of addressing issues of social justice in radically honest ways.
“Getting to Maybe” by Frances Westley (2009) was the first book I read that showed me how to congruence between my deepening spirituality and my professional life. In “Getting to Maybe”, Westley describes one of the key characteristics of social innovators as
“finding themselves in flow, in sync with others, moving rapidly forward in unexpected and unpredictable, even previously unimaginable ways. They thought they were looking for something and suddenly find that it has found them." (page 25).
These social innovators find “flow” despite tremendous obstacle, resistance and periods of extreme doubt. She goes on to say
"Suddenly and out of the darkness emerges change moments, those moments when “what seemed like a local, personal social quest suddenly connects with larger forces. These are the times when it feels the timing is right and the moment has come, not through planning and rational goal setting, but by being at the right place at the right time.”
Some people call it good luck but Westley calls this living in flow. In other words, living in flow means having faith in something larger than yourself, a commitment to a higher purpose, and the willingness to go with the flow rather than force outcomes leads to those moments when miracles occur. And while Westley never defines this “flow” of events as a spiritual experience, I believe that’s exactly what it is.
I have felt it so many times. A friend and I call it "being in the river"--those times when i just let go and find myself in the most serendipitous situations, sometimes with terrifying speed. I can't see around the bend, and I'm likely to get some scrapes along the way, but if I let go and trust the river will take me where I'm supposed to go. It's when I get scared and logic my way out of the river that I find things slowing down, getting harder.
Part of my personal vision is to live in the flow of my life and my soul’s work. And I think this has three components related to flow
- Recognize flow in my life;
- Have the courage to make the decisions that support flow in my life; and
- Live a life that inspires others to do the same.
Recognizing flow in my life, is the easiest. It’s not quantifiable but rather a feeling. It’s a feeling in my heart that I have at certain times, when my heart feels big, open, grateful, joyful and connected. I feel it in personal life related to love: romantic love, love for my child, for a friend, for a kindness, for unexpected beauty, for simplicity, for nature. And I can be brought to those moments by a color, a sound, music, light, or by a hug. When I am lost in nature in a boat, on a dock, atop a mountain, or under a tree, I feel flow. In my personal life, nurturing, teaching and inspiring others puts me into flow. When I share the mundane moments of life with someone I truly love, with someone that makes my soul sing, I feel flow. When I have those moments of communion with Ayrie or God, I feel flow. While most of these moments happen in my personal space, I find that I feel flow at work when I have helped someone make a transformative decision for themselves that helps them enter their own personal flow. It’s easy to see and feel when this happens because their eyes light up and their energy changes.
What’s harder to think about is how to stay in the flow once I’ve found it. This is the true act of faith. These are the decisions I make that might be counter-intuitive, that might fly in the face of reason. These are the decisions that may make us less financially stable, may not be linear, may not seem responsible. Flow requires active and ongoing faith that the right opportunity is coming our way even though we may not have seen a glimpse of it yet. It requires that we keep our options open, and our lives fluid rather than over-scheduled, predictable and safe. This is especially hard to do because we might have to face our own fears, might have to disappoint those we love, and might have to let go of the limitations that we have placed on ourselves as a result of our perceived shortcomings. This is particularly hard to do when people are dependent on us because it feels that we are taking risks with their security and well-being as well. It’s hard to keep the faith that they shine when we shine, and that we can best support them when we are in our flow. This is where I stumble. I give in to my fears and I lose faith. I make safe decisions rather than courageous decisions that speak my truth.
The third part of my flow, inspiring others, is hard to do when I don’t consistency make choices that support my own flow. But I’ve had moments in my life that let me know that this is possible and that it’s something I need to strive for. I’ve kept a blog sporadically since Ayrie died and it has inspired people to have faith that they will find and can live their own personal flow. But I am not sure why what I write resonates with people so much. Someone in California who I don’t know left a comment on a retired blog post.
“I just want to say thank you, for all that you are to all of us [who read your blog]! This blog post you put about the sense of peace and positivity you feel this New Year was exactly what I needed. It is amazing to me how much you are giving, how far out your kindness, hope, love and compassion stretches out. I just gave $250 to sponsor a high school student in Lethoso (Africa) to go to school for the year. Generally children can attend school until the end of the elementary years, but after that they have to pay out of pocket for the remainder of their education, which means that most of them don’t attend the higher grades. I have been wanting to do this for a long time, but it wasn’t until I read about you and Shiya giving of others the gift of giving that I finally took the leap. You are absolutely making a difference, and you are inspiring many of us on the outer fringes of your life to act on our intentions as well. Thank you, for being the person of action that you are, for modeling for the rest of us how to live life beautifully.”