Right now I’m in an ebb. I can feel it. And I have to consciously surrender to it every day, because I trust in the cycle of ebb and flow, and not necessarily because it feels natural to me. Surrendering to the ebbs of life runs completely counter to American living. Americans push, and go, and move, and achieve, and accomplish, and produce. A stay-at-home mom can have just as many daily balls in the air as the CEO of a large company. If you are an American, you are most likely very active in life on a day to day basis. And if you are not, unless you are at complete peace with peace, you most likely feel an extreme sense of guilt for your lack of motivation and inactivity.
Our value and self-worth are rather based on outcomes, and anything short of daily achievement in the form of tangible productivity is viewed as failure. If a person living in this country woke up one morning and literally lounged around all day, ate, used the bathroom, and went to sleep, they would be considered lazy, unmotivated, and thought to be wasting their life away. And yet, the moon always, every month, without fail, rests in shadow for a time. The sun sets every night and living organisms go to sleep. For every inhale, there is an exhale. For every rising ocean wave, there is always a crash and retraction. It’s nature, and human beings are nature-made.
Ebbs in life are very individual and they do not always run in line with the cycles of the moon (the new moon is for going within and setting new intentions, the half-moon can often conjure miniature crises and beginnings of things starting to move, and the full moon often dictates things coming to fruition and invites ultimate release), although they sometimes do. I have found in my life, and from observing the lives of my loved ones, that the human body often dictates when an ebb is called for. When the human body is forced to slow down, a life ebb inevitably follows, whether we like it or not. I happen to believe the body and soul are intricately interlaced, and often times, if our waking mind is not always aware of our soul requests, the soul begins to then communicate through the body. Even further, life events that affect the body, are often also dictated by the soul in communication with The Universe.
For example, perhaps I am overworked and my relationships and health are suffering because my waking mind is choosing not to slow down, is avoiding making necessary changes, and is refusing to take a break. My soul might be trying to communicate with me in the form of emotions, such as feeling sad that I missed a family celebration because of work. My soul might also work in cooperation with The Universe to send me other opportunities to slow down. Maybe my weekend plans fall through and now I have nothing lined up for the weekend (a perfect opportunity to rest). Or perhaps I have a fight with my partner about how unavailable I have been. Or, maybe I’m driving too fast down a highway or on a busy street, late for something, and I just barely avoid what could have been a frightening car accident. All of these are ways the soul is trying to communicate the need to slow down. They are warning signs that an ebb is approaching and you need to make room for it in your life.
If enough of these opportunities are ignored, the soul begins communicating instead with the body, to try to get our attention in a more obvious way. Perhaps a lingering and ongoing backache suddenly becomes almost unbearably painful. Maybe I have persistent and regular insomnia. Or, I might be rushing out the door and I stub my toe in a really bad fucking way, ouch. Gentle nudges affecting the body are often easily recognizable cues that we need to slow it down. However, if even these opportunities are ignored, the body (led by the soul-Universe partnership) can go into reaction and crises can arise, seemingly out of nowhere. Perhaps I get in a minor fender bender (from driving recklessly or distractedly) and now have to take off work to go to the emergency room. The doctor recommends I take it easy for a few days and wants to keep me on concussion watch. Do I listen, or do I keep proceeding with life as normal? If I insist on not stopping, things will inevitably escalate. I decide to go to work anyway, or maybe I keep my original weekend plans for a night out on the town with friends. A week later, I can’t figure out why I have been getting migraines every day, blurred vision, and other odd pains and sensations in my body. Another three weeks go by and I pass out at work. My doctor puts me on mandatory bed rest for two weeks, explaining that I never fully recovered from what was initially a minor concussion. Now, I have nothing to do but sit with myself for two weeks. An ebb has been forced upon me, against my will.
[Some crazy ass people still keep going, even after incidences like this. Please don’t be one of those people.]
If we refuse to slow down, our body will eventually make us slow down! I’ve seen countless examples and have observed people live entire lifetimes in this manner, doing anything to avoid an ebb. Those people’s lives are often filled with more crises, more drama, and more physical and emotional setbacks than those stopping to take a bit of time, relaxing into their divinely timed ebbs.
[Just a note that fender bender’s happen, we all get sick, we all stub our toes, and sometimes catastrophe just strikes. Isolated incidences are not necessarily indications of ebb-avoidance. I am mostly referring to lifestyles with never stopping, always pushing, ebb avoiding patterns that are chronic and ongoing.]
Since ebbs are inevitable, just like sunsets and blackened moons, we can absolutely find ways to work with the ebbs in life, rather than against them, in order to avoid drama, health issues, relationship deterioration, and ultimate unhappiness.
Covid-19 and quarantine have definitely amplified my ability to pinpoint my ebb and flow cycles. Things are so quiet these days, it’s kind of hard to miss it. Pre-quarantine, going to work every day, running around at night, juggling weekend plans, and everything else in life, was definitely an effective way to muddy the waters of my ebb and flow cycle. Sometimes our soul might be wanting to enter into an ebb, but it can be difficult to tell the difference between being tired from being in the flow (just as there are actual ebbs, there are actual flows as well, and it’s not just from “busyness”), and being tired from actually needing an ebb. I was recently in a very intense flow and it lasted for several weeks (maybe more). Ebbs and flows don’t necessarily have obvious boundaries or edges, but when you are in them, you can usually feel it.
Here are some characteristics of what one might feel and experience leading up to and during an ebb and flow.
- You will want quiet, even if you typically get by fine without much of it.
- You might change what kind of music you want to listen to when you are in an ebb. I have a playlist created specifically for ebb time and it honestly feels like nails on a chalkboard if I try to listen to music I normally prefer.
- You will want to do more internal than external things like reading, sleeping, thinking.
- The night feels more peaceful and comfortable than the day.
- You don’t feel inspired to do activities that you normally do (This can be confused with depression, but sad and negative feelings don’t typically accompany an ebb. An ebb is not an emotional state as much as an energetic state. The energy is slowed and steady and still, but not necessarily bad-feeling, sad, or unhappy).
- You feel inspired to go easy on your body and any physical activity that you do engage in is gentle and slow. Slow feels good.
- You may not sleep as deeply or as soundly because you just don’t need as much sleep during an ebb as you do when you are in a flow.
Photograph by Hiroshi Sugimoto, obtained here
- You are inspired by things easily and inspired action often follows. During the flow, NOT taking action feels virtually impossible.
- You love blasting your favorite music and singing along to every song. The more emotionally intense you feel during each song, the better! Tears flow as easily as joy. It’s all good because the flow of feelings is natural and wide open.
- You may have so many things you want to do that you feel your body, and even time, just can’t keep up with your internal energy.
- Things feel alive and abuzz and you are open to new things, experiences, people, lessons, teachings, places. You feel a bit like a sponge, ready and excited to absorb anything that comes your way.
- You sleep well at night because your days are full and long and active and intense.
- More intense physical activity feels good and energy levels are high.
- Days seem long and wide open and nights seem to go by in a blink.
We don’t necessarily need to wait until a crises strikes before being thrown against our will into an ebb. Often times, if we try to stall an ebb by avoiding it, the ebb may actually last longer than it would have normally if we would have willingly entered into one.
I entered into my ebb quite easily this time, and yet, the universe, my soul, and my body, still made efforts to make it so. My soul always knows what I need before I consciously do. I simply didn’t resist, so the process was peaceful and rather swift, before my life turned into slow moving, virtually inanimate, sticky molasses aka an ebb. Here are the series of events that took place as my ebb approached. Notice how the events are comprised of both emotional and physical entities, same as the above mentioned, but just not as traumatic or crisis-like.
- I felt called and inspired to sign up for an online course to learn Qigong (a mindfulness practice involving slow-paced, balanced, and flowing movements, reflective of yin and yang (ebb and flow) energy).
- My tribe (soul friend group) shared a weekend (unfortunately it was not in person this year, but via Zoom) of spiritual workshops, led by each of us and for each other, all relating to internal and spiritual growth and reflection.
- I discovered a spot on my body that seemed questionable and warranted a visit to my dermatologist. She found the spot questionable as well and performed a biopsy. Luckily, the results came back negative, but the wound from the biopsy is still sore and healing. Physical movement at times can be painful. Not moving my body just feels better right now.
And here we are…Ebb Central.
There are SO many ways, even today, that I could be choosing to break out from under this ebb. I felt it coming before the biopsy and before I became physically incapacitated. My soul knew an ebb was coming, and drew me to the Qigong opportunity. The practice of Qigong calls for the mind and the body to partake in an enormous slowing down of sorts, on so many levels. It’s amazing. And I completed the course shortly before the biopsy, so the ebb seed was planted in perfect timing. The tribe weekend also shook all of us internally, a bit more than we may have expected. Conducting spiritual workshops and self-reflection is something all of us are comfortable with, but the weekend was so intimate and intense and there are just so many thoughts and emotions to process after something like that. It’s just unnatural to enter into an exciting flow when the soul and mind are still doing a lot of internal processing. An ebb is much more of an energetic match to this state of being. And lastly, the biopsy. I find it so interesting that the spot in question that I had removed was literally inside my navel. This is representative of the core of me, the literal center of my body. The wound was minor and not not very deep, but it still takes several weeks to heal. The area has been sore, but I probably could have continued on with my daily 3-mile walks and 35 minute Qigong sessions–if I was a complete egg head. But since it really is in the center of my body, I can’t move much in any direction without my center feeling the effects. I’m always scolding my loved ones for not taking care of their bodies when the need arises, and that has been my main motivating factor in taking it so slow these last few days–hypocrisy avoidance. Whatever works, right?
View from my back deck at sunset. I’ve been finding it difficult to be inside all day with the air condition blowing, and only electronics to keep me entertained. Sitting outside in nature for even just a few minutes has been a deeply healing, gentle, and loving influence on my body, mind, and soul during this fragile time of ebb.
I’ve been doing lots of internal work and feeling inspired to go within and get quiet with myself. I just bought an e-book device (something I have put off for years) because I desperately want to read farming memoirs specifically, and I can only get access to certain good reads through electronic means. I’m loving it! Also, my partner and I are retreating to his family’s lake house in the Poconos of Pennsylvania, and I see a bit of a continuation of this ebb, at least for the next week or so. I don’t know how long it will last, and one never does. Just trust. I am considering the point when my navel is fully healed as the marker for moving potentially out of the ebb, and into more of a flow, but I will just have to wait and see how I feel. Just a note that sometimes, those periods between ebb and flow can last months and months as well. Sometimes, we’re just living and are neither in an ebb or a flow. Do you know that space between when you inhale and when you begin your exhale? There’s always a space, always a pause, always a transition. This fragment is also a key part of the ebb and flow cycle and must be honored and recognized as well.
And just as there were signs of an ebb approaching, I can feel the inklings of a new flow coming down the pipe, but is just not yet here. When it actually arrives, it may not arrive with a bang. It might just begin slowly, until before I know it, I’m bursting again with energy and inspiration. Here is the first inkling of flow. I follow many artists on Instagram and this image by this particularly talented artist, struck me so deeply when I saw it. I’m inspired to create something in the same vein, in my own style of course, and for me, creativity always gets the flow moving. When I’m in an ebb, I almost never create. And when I in my last flow, I was exploding with creative energy. I’m not forcing a flow and I’m not in any hurry. I’m chillin in my ebb right now. I’ll act when I feel inspired to act, and not before then. Even if it feels weird and awkward and impatient and unnatural. I know the time is not yet here. That is surrendering to the ebb. That is how you live in the flow and honor the cycles. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s a natural thing. It’s not bad or good, it’s just more “in tune” with the soul. How lovely…
Heat by Heather Chontos, Work on Paper