I saw an extraordinary film called Standing in the Shadows of Motown. This inspiring documentary chronicles the careers of about a dozen musicians who created and recorded the background music for all the great Motown stars, such as the Supremes, Temptations, Four Tops, and on and on. The posse, known as “the Funk Brothers” turned out more hit records than were ever sold by the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Rolling Stones combined.
The Funk Brothers’ keyboardist described how he and the group would drop into musical grooves in which the music seemed to be playing them. “My job,” he explained, “was to get my fingers to keep up with the keys that were pressing themselves down.”
If you have ever been infused with inspiration, you know exactly what the brother meant. When you open yourself as a vehicle for creative expression, the song, painting, book, speech, or lovemaking takes over and you feel more like it is living through you than that you are manufacturing it. In that moment you are one with the creator and the creation, and without effort you feel totally fulfilled and bring ultimate joy, color, and good to the world.
Wayne Dyer describes the difference between motivation and inspiration: “Motivation,” Dr. Dyer explains, “is when you take hold of an idea. Inspiration is when an idea takes hold of you.” Seek, then, to be inspired rather than motivated.
Stephen Spielberg describes his experience thus: “Once a month an idea crashes into my brain when I wake up, and I can’t eat breakfast until I do something about it.”
I saw a film of boxing great Muhammad Ali. The film, slowed down to illustrate Ali’s masterful technique, showed him ducking punches before his opponent threw them. Something in Ali was so attuned to the flow that he knew what was coming and reacted on the basis of intuition only. Ali was not thinking at all; he was just feeling and knowing.
This exalted and highly productive state has been called by many names. Spiritualists know it as the Tao; athletes stay in the Zone; actors disappear into character; artists call upon their muse. Living and acting in this consciousness has little to do with figuring things out, and a lot to do with feeling things out. More sensing than planning. More being than doing.
In our culture we have the doing thing down pat. We carefully organize our to-do lists, leave no detail to chance or the potential ineptness of others, and clutch at our Palm Pilots like holy grails. And they all serve their purpose. Yet there is another element of life that many of us are literally dying for, and that is connection with the flow. The flow is the one thing you cannot control or organize. You can only move with it. And it will serve you well if you trust it.
The Star Wars series popularized the salutation, “May the Force be with you.” Yet this benediction falls a tad short of a more accurate blessing: “May you be with the Force.” The Force, you see, is already with you. It is beating your heart, breathing your lungs, and operating billions of microscopic processes in your body and trillions of other bodies, not to mention organizing and sustaining the entire universe. The Force is operating everywhere always, intelligently and masterfully. The question is, are you aligned with it? Are you listening to its guidance and dancing in its flow? If so, you cannot lose. If not, stop whatever you are doing and listen for it. It is the one answer your mind cannot conjure, but your heart can illuminate.
Once I was about to board an airplane when the agent announced the flight would be delayed several hours. I had requested an upgrade to first class, so I headed to the counter to try to influence the agent to give me a seat. By the time I arrived a long line had formed, with many people seeking to get their travel needs met. Quickly I realized I would be spending most of my time until the flight waiting. I asked myself what I would be doing if I were not anxious about getting my upgrade, and my answer was, “I would go to the executive lounge and relax.” So I decided to trust, let go of trying to force the upgrade, and kicked back for a few hours.
Shortly before the flight I headed back to the gate, where I heard a voice on the loudspeaker, “Paging Mr. Cohen.” I approached the agent, who told me, “Your upgrade came through.” Then she added, “That’s amazing – it wasn’t there a few minutes ago.” She gave me the ticket without requesting the appropriate coupons, and I asked her, “Don’t you want these coupons?” She answered, “The computer here says the seat is paid for, and that is good enough for me.”
Good things are wanting and trying to happen to you and through you. Music is calling to be played, success is begging to be achieved, and solid, loving relationships are seeking to blossom. Are you willing to let them? Can you let love find you and express through you? Quit trying to figure out which keys to press, or forcing the ones you have decided should go down. Instead, watch for which keys that are pressing themselves, and then do your best to keep your fingers in the holes.
By Alan Cohen