All beings that are biologically alive, flow. Even what looks like inanimate objects, flow.
Flow is what keeps pathways clean and usable. A river that doesn’t flow, will die. A footpath that isn’t used will still get clogged.
This is true at all levels. At the level of cells, tissues, organs, organ systems, individual animals, families, tribes, nations, the earth. Stop the flow, stop the movement and things collapse. A stable healthy system shouldn’t have blockages to flow. Flow will repair and regenerate and if the flow is strong enough, it will remodel the system into a new equilibrium, even if there has been cataclysmic disruption.
Sticking to the topic of the human body, flow is seen in the pulse,in breath, in digestion, in electrical activity, in the lymph, in speech, thoughts, and in movements of the spine and limbs. The flow of nutrients into cells. The cycle of ATP, ADP and AMP in the cells and the organelles.
They are named separately, but they are inseparable in function. Any one of these on their own will not be able to sustain itself. These flows depend on each other to keep the body alive. Take one of these out, and system will collapse at some point. The time taken will depend on how vital that flow is. Each flow has a different level of importance in keeping life going. But, b that doesn’t mean, that the less vital flows are unnecessary.
The above list isn’t exhaustive. There are flows in the body that we probably haven’t even discovered yet. Pulses and waves that run in a rhythm that we aren’t even looking for. If we don’t know the rhythm, we’ll think of these movements as random. We will think of it as noise, or “variation”. For example the wave like flow of the cerebrospinal fluid, synchronising with the glymphatic system of the brain was discovered only recently. And that was mainly because we didn’t even consider the existence of a lymphatic system inside the central nervous system. What the mind does not know, the eyes will not see. This is true at physical, metaphysical and philosophical levels
Variability and variation in flow is built in to living organisms. A living organism that moves like a metronome, with no variation in it’s rate and rhythms, will die earlier. It will fall sick easier. It will suffer unnecessarily. The variation and variability in flows and rhythms is a feature, not a bug. Those changes in rate rhythm and volume is what keeps the channels from getting to used to the same flow and keeps a reserve capacity built in. A lack of variability and chaos in the system will lead to rigidity and ossification.
An ossified, rigid, inflexible system will not be able to respond to a sudden challenge. See how our cities respond to floods and see how an untouched river delta with marshes responds to floods. You’ll get an idea.
Extreme variations in the external (and internal)environment will lead to a stress on the flows of the body. This will cause the body to respond by shifting it’s rate of flow to a higher level, in the hope that a new equilibrium can be found. Albeit at a higher energy expenditure.If the channels that contain the flow are resilient enough to accommodate the new, higher flow, adaptation may occur. If the channels aren’t robust enough, or the stressor unrelenting, there will be accelerated wear and tear. The channels will break down. The flow will stagnate, stop, reverse or go in the wrong directions. This will manifest as disease. The higher rate of flow will keep you going for a while, but if the body doesn’t adapt positively to the new stressor it will lead to accelerated aging.
The disease would have started long back. But your flows tried to compensate and you remained blissfully unaware till the system actually broke down. Prevention of unnaturally early breakdown of these flows is what keeps you healthy.
What do you need, in order to prevent the breakdown of these flows and channels?
1. Awareness- theoretical, intuitive and experiential knowledge (interoception) of the flows.
2. External assistance- I don’t mean doctors and the healthcare system. Those are for when the systems breakdown. I’m talking about harnessing the flows that occur outside you. Synchronising your life with natural rhythms. Seasons, day and night cycles.
3. Avoiding blocking these flows with your modern lifestyle and modern interventions. By natural movement.
4. Taking care of the most vital of your flows that lend their force to all the other less critical flows in your body(Breath, pulse, movement, digestion)
5. Resting long enough for the body to adapt it’s flows and make the channel more robust. Resting too long is counter productive because all the hard won adaptations get rolled back in the absence of repeated challenges.
6. A balance between structure and randomness. Too much structure in a daily routine can lead to loss of resilience in the face of change. Too much chaos in the daily routine can lead to accelerated aging as the body rushes to face one challenge after the other with no breaks in between.
7. Minimise corners and sharp edges. That’s where stagnation occurs. A fast flow across edges and into corners will also result in turbulence, which will lead to accelerated wear and tear. You’ll easily notice this happening in buildings. But you can also notice the same patterns elsewhere.
8. Avoid using movements that are primarily linear as your main mode of physical training. Use waves, spirals and oscillations as your primary movements. Use flow. Reduce corners.
9. Avoid sudden changes in direction and tempo when it comes to mental and physical activity. This is again the concept of minimising corners. Reserve those sudden changes for emergencies. Also avoid the tendency to turn every trivial action into an emergency. Those are again the hard edges and corners that cut into your flows.
10. Bring some music and rhythm into your life
I do realise that the above post is rather vague and airy. But it needs to be. Hard edges and boundaries are appropriate in some areas and in some areas necessary. But, in most cases flow is better. There’s no way I can separate these flows into compartments and still show you the significance of these things. You wouldn’t learn to see the patterns if I did that. You would go away with the reductionist, hard edged attitude of the modern lifestyle, which is what got us into these problems in the first place.
There will be change in our modern cultural attitude to life at some point. These hard edges and corners that we live with now, will get worn smooth, and things will get better again. Maybe not in our lifetime. But it will happen. In the meantime, keep your internal flows, physical and mental, smooth and laminar.
I was just about to post this, when a friend sent me the following video. It talks about the same topic. The rhythm of life. Definitely worth watching and listening to.