Dance, don’t fall

Going with the Flow

A Taoist
story tells of an old man who accidentally fell into the river rapids
leading to a high and dangerous waterfall. Onlookers feared for his
life. Miraculously, he came out alive and unharmed downstream at the
bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive.

“I accommodated myself to
the water, not the water to me. Without thinking, I allowed myself to
be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl.
This is how I survived.”


I happen to think in pictures, and sometimes this creates difficulty when trying to describe concepts in my head to clients.  A picture that I had in my head while working with a client recently was that every time the world would change directions she would fall over, working her best to  continue on in the direction she was going, the direction she was comfortable with.   The picture I had was working to shift from fighting the change and falling, to flowing with the change.  Moving from falling, to dancing.   

So much of the suffering I see in my clients is attempts to keep the world the way it was, instead of adjusting to the way it really is.  Sakyong Mipham discusses in his book How To Turn Your Mind in to an Ally how we create difficulty for ourselves by resisting change.  Struggling to keep the world in our safety zone where we are comfortable.  

The world is going to shift, often in ways that we don’t plan, or even want.  If we struggle to keep the world the same, every time it shifts in a new direction we risk falling.  Consider the world your dance partner, always in the lead.  There will always be times now and then the world shifts unexpectedly and we are knocked off our feet.  In general though, if we keep our heads (and our hearts) together we can follow the shifts and keep our feet, hopefully with even a little grace. 

Buddhism believes that suffering comes from wanting.  Wanting to draw closer, push away, or wanting to keep the same. An old saying, possibly over used, “the only constant is change”.  The world will shift, time will move forward, and change will come.  When we can learn to follow the changes the world is going to throw at us, we can learn to dance instead of fall. 

This entry was posted in Emotional Health, Interpersonal relationships, Self-Relations on by .

About Marissa Engel

I have been in private practice in Austin, TX since 2007. My focus as a therapist is to help clients uncover within themselves the courage and strength to face life with confidence. In my work with clients I am most interested in helping people develop a compassionate relationship with their own experiences that can lead them on a journey of acceptance, self discovery, relief from suffering, and healing of relational disconnects. In my practice I have worked with individuals, couples, families, and groups, seeing adults, adolescents, and children. My scope of treatment has included depression, anxiety, panic attacks, anger and stress management difficulties, suicidal ideation, grief and loss, addictions, eating disorders, and couple/family difficulties.

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