Going With The Flow


A wise monk, whom I have known for many years, was hiking with an old friend in an antipodean wilderness. Late one hot afternoon they arrived at a splendid stretch of isolated beach. Even though it is against the monk’s rules to swim just for fun, the blue water was inviting and he needed to cool off after the long walk, so he stripped off and went for a swim.
When he was a young layman, he had been a strong swimmer. But now, as a monk of long standing, it had been many years since he had last swim. After only a couple of minutes of splashing in the surf, he was caught in a strong rip tide that began to sweep him out to sea. He was later told that this was a very dangerous beach because of the fierce currents.
At first, the monk tried to swim against the current. He soon realized, though, that the force of the current was too strong for him. His training now came to his aid. He relaxed, let go and went with the flow.
It was an act of great courage to relax in such a situation, as he saw the shoreline recede further and further away. He was many hundreds of metres away from land when the current diminished. Only then did he start to swim away from the rip tide and back towards shore.
He told me that swim back to land took every last ounce of his energy reserves. He reached the beach utterly exhausted. He was certain that, had he tried to fight the current, it would have beaten him. He would have been swept far out to sea just the same, but so depleted in energy that he wouldn’t have made it back. If he hadn’t let go and gone with the flow, he was sure he would have drowned.
Such anecdotes demonstrate that the adage ‘ When there’s nothing to do, then do nothing’ is not fanciful theory. Rather, it can be life-saving wisdom. Whenever the current is stronger than you are, that is the time to go with the flow. When you are able to be effective, that is the time to put forth effort.
Buddhist Tales of happiness by Ajahn Brahm

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