Photo by Ahmed Amir
RELAXATION (also known as Flow, Stagnation, Suspension) is one of seven possible goals in life, chosen by a soul before taking birth. It drives the personality to live an unplanned, carefree existence.
The goal of no-goal
With all other life goals, life is a means to an end. We may live in order to know more truth (Growth / Retardation), or to better love ourselves and others (Acceptance / Rejection), or to make things happen in the world (Dominance / Submission) … We are trying to go in a certain direction through life, and trying to fulfil an underlying goal.
With the neutral goal, however, none of that applies. Life is not a means to an end that requires hard work or struggle. Living effortlessly is the goal. Short-term choices and actions are not instrumental to some longer-term fulfilment. The aim is to simply be present without pushing into a better future, and to find contentment with whatever shows up.
This is, if you will, the goal of no-goal, or the goal-less goal. It’s like leaving your path in life unspecified or undefined. Rather than going this way or that, you simply allow yourself to be assimilated into the flow of life itself. (Hence, this is an assimilation-oriented goal.)
Typical traits: casual, laid-back, happy-go-lucky, easygoing, unmotivated, rudderless, apathetic
“But I’ve seen this called something else…”
The neutral goal has been given various names over the years. The original Michael teachings called it Stagnation, but this better describes the negative expression of the goal. Later versions have used Flow, but I think this is more apt for describing its positive expression. We need a more neutral term.
For a while I went with the term Contentment, to emphasise the idea of being content with whatever happens, and without trying. But I don’t like standing out from the crowd too much, so I’ve gone with the more common term Relaxation. We could also consider it as Surrender, Non-Attachment, Allowing, Equilibrium, Undirectedness, Fluidity. Another good term is the French laissez-faire, meaning an attitude of letting things take their own course. But there seems to be no English word which quite hits the mark. Improvisation perhaps?
Whatever we chose to call it, the main thing is to understand what this goal is about, namely:
- Going along with whatever happens in life, like you’re just along for the ride.
- Lightness, buoyancy — ‘floating’ rather than ‘swimming’ — moving just enough to stay afloat without sinking.
- Allowing life to manifest its own way without trying to impose on it any particular direction, purpose or objective of your own.
By the way, this is not the same as the goal of Acceptance. Acceptance (in this context) doesn’t mean allowing anything to happen — the goal of Acceptance is about deliberately seeking positive relationships (mutual acceptance) with others, with life, with self. The neutral goal (Relaxation/Flow/Stagnation) has no such thrust or focus.
Generally, a soul chooses this goal when it fancies a “life off”; that is, when it just wants to relax and let go following a particularly challenging series of lives or a particularly traumatic life. It could also be a way to learn how to let go and be more relaxed in life.
Having the goal of Contentment
I have a close friend called Sally who has this goal, and she has given me some wonderful descriptions of it from her experience:
It has been a nightmare to search my soul for what I want to ‘do’ with my life and come up with nothing, whilst seeing others acting on divine inspiration and clearly getting enormous fulfillment from working towards or achieving their life’s ambition. Oh, to have a goal or a cause that I can really get behind! So I’ve ended up pretending, with all the emptiness that carries, in order to ‘fit in’ with the more visible, socially acceptable, models of adult behaviour.
In truth, all I’ve ever wanted to ‘do’ is the next immediate thing on my horizon that looks like it might be fun, peaceful or entertaining, be it a something or a nothing, and when I’ve allowed that to be my unhindered reality with no greater portent, my life has indeed flowed. If there’s something I feel particularly attracted towards doing, that is a goal, but the thing is attracting me only for its own sake, and it’s a short-term endeavour.
When I’m in Flow, Life happens just as it does when I’m not, but it’s then effortless. It needs no push or shove or direction… it doesn’t matter how it happens; all things that come my way are good at worst and entertaining and funny at best — no matter what they are. There’s such a powerful and beautiful sense/awareness of how much it doesn’t matter what pitches up next…
My life is filled with examples of this. I wanted to get my pilot’s licence, and with thoughtless happy excitement I ‘coincidentally’ I spotted an advert for a scholarship. With thoughtless happy excitement I applied and wasn’t too attached to the outcome — it was like entering a competition — no big deal — ‘would be nice’ if it worked… I won the scholarship, and all the lead-up to that was just fun and excitement — Would I get it? Wouldn’t I? I just enjoyed the ride and the experiences I was having. Later I duly cycled a 12-mile return journey twice a week and thought nothing of it, rain and shine, as I learned to fly. Honestly, the ease and the flow at such times are to die for…
But as soon as I’ve brought meaning into the doing, or consequences (this will help me towards that, or that will help me achieve this, or I’m doing this in order to learn/recover from/ help others with that etc) it has stopped flowing as well. Over-driving is as inefficient as too much passivity.
If you are operating from this goal, you probably find that you have a very casual approach to life compared to most other people. While others strive, you stroll. While others try to swim against the current, you just float along. Life is unpremeditated. Your personality has a laissez-faire quality.
This might make you come across to others as unambitious and half-hearted. Your life may appear to have no consistent aim or direction.
It’s not that nothing ever happens, and it’s not that you never do anything. Life will have its fair share of ups and downs. It’s just that there is little or no force behind anything. You are OK with whatever direction it takes.
Being undirected in life is rather like just floating on the sea being carried hither and thither by the tides and currents, going along with whatever happens. With time, one might learn to trust that the universe will provide all that is necessary, so any direction you end up being carried in is perfect just as it is.
To be clear: this goal isn’t about being completely passive. You may have to “work” at letting go, especially if you’ve been brought up to think that ambition and striving are all-important.
Think of various leisure activities such as skiing, surfing or gliding. We don’t do things like this for some greater purpose, but purely for the fun of doing them. But they are still activities — you have to apply yourself in order to enjoy yourself. Although the waves carry you while surfing, for example, you still have to focus on keeping your balance. But when you get it right, you’re in the flow.
With the neutral goal, you are trying to surf the waves of life. You don’t care where you are going, but that doesn’t mean you are hopelessly passive. Your small effort is all part of the fun so long as you are present enough to enjoy it.
On the other hand, if you have this goal then you probably find that you don’t have to work too hard to get from A to B. While others fret over how to make life work, you just walk up to a door and it magically opens for you. Just as others’ worries and concerns attract the very things they worry and get concerned about, the state of relaxed openness that comes with being neutral attracts openings and opportunities.
When you are in the flow, the universe simply tosses you whatever takes your fancy. How to get there is not an issue.
So does this mean that this goal is all magic and wonder, the basis of an easy and happy life?
Not quite. First, there is a built-in challenge: how to positively go with the flow, which leads to contentment, and not just stagnate or sink to the bottom out of complacency?
Second, how to just enjoy the present activity without trying to determine the outcome — or give it some other purpose beyond the sheer fun of doing it?
Third, it is quite a challenge to casually drift contentedly through life while living in a culture which expects you to show drive and ambition. In fact, you could grow up with an instilled need to work hard only to reach maturity and find that this is not who you are — that being true to yourself means letting go.
Relaxation: positive and negative
|Flow. Contentment. Alignment.||Stagnation. Apathy. Torpor.|
In the positive pole of this goal, you contentedly relax into alignment with the natural unfolding of life, the way of the universe.
Flow is one word for this, though perhaps the best term I have come across is the Chinese Wu Wei, which means “effortless doing”. In Taoism, this is the art of going through life without interfering with it, just letting go and letting be, or what Chuang Tzu calls “purposeless wandering.”
Being in the positive pole is about moving freely and easily with the flow of life. It is what the Abraham teachings refer to as the Art of Allowing, being in alignment.
In the negative pole, one becomes overly passive and apathetic. As a result, life loses its impulse and you attract a life in which nothing of significance changes. Instead of surfing the waves, you end up sinking lifelessly to the bottom, and — from the soul’s point of view — stagnating, living without purpose.
The only way out of stagnation and torpor is to temporarily adopt one of the other goals — any will do, as they are all equally accessible from the neutral mid-point. For example, consciously reaching for some comprehension of what life is about, which is the positive pole of Growth, will help pull you back into the flow of life. Having found something worthwhile and of interest, one can then relax into it.
Some famous examples
Note how they all share the same look of relaxed, laid-back contentment!
• Relaxation •