In my mind, there are several rivers of thought-distinct rivers all travelling in the same direction, with miles of space between them. In one river are all the earthly thoughts about who I am- the criticisms, the judgments, the pain, the memories, and all the debris and murkiness picked up over a lifetime of living. In the next river, there is the brisk and frigid water of this modern life- societal expectations, the stress of keeping up, the teeming rapids of work, sleep, tasks…the rush of one day careening into the next as time rushes by faster and faster while months and years pass. The third river of thought is older than time itself, much older than the other two. You can tell because it is neither muddy nor rushed, but it flows downstream peacefully, knowing it will always arrive where it is meant to be, that nothing can stop it. Though this river has always been here, it is hard for me to get to. I have spent most of my time being swept away by the other two, and by countless other streams and puddles and creeks that branch off of them. I find that the third river is difficult to reach sometimes, and though I love it most of all, it’s the hardest one to stay at. I am forever being pulled away, sucked back into the muddy waters of one, or the furious pace of the other.
I am not judging this experience, I am simply explaining it in a way that makes sense to me. Have you observed something similar in your own life? Because this is the best illustration for the layers of my unfolding life that I can come up with. There is the emotional and mental aspect, there is the physical, human aspect, and then there is the eternal, spiritual aspect.
In my short-sighted, human way, I have been struggling against the same exact issues since the very beginning of this blog. I suspected that was true when I started questioning the originality of my posts lately. It was confirmed when I took a little walk down memory lane this morning, and saw myself writing about the same feelings, the same moods, the same ideas- with slight variations, of course- over and over. The reason I find this more funny than alarming is a direct result of this spiritual hurricane season I have personally been going through, trying, inadequately, to convey here.
You see, I have been afraid and resentful of the muddy river of my emotions. I have allowed myself to get beat up by the debris of bad memories and sucked under by the weight of my own judgement. I’ve struggled to swim against the current, trying to go back and make sense of it all, not realizing that none of it matters, the past is GONE. This water only goes one way, and all along it’s been trying to move me forward, farther and farther away from those things. I’ve been fighting so hard in this river when all I ever needed to do was let it move me along. All I ever needed to do was let go.
And this cold river over here? The one that sounds like a thousand clamoring voices and all their opinions and expectations? I have been right out in the middle of that river, tumbling end over end, but no matter how fast I went, I never got anywhere. I can’t really get out of this river, not completely. But you know what? I found out that I can stay out of the middle where the rapids are, and along the edges, things move more slowly. I don’t have to keep up with anyone else to be happy- in fact, the opposite is true. The more I focus on just my life, and the people in it, the better I feel.
River number three, that nirvana where we all come from? We aren’t supposed to live there, I don’t think. Not all the time, not while we are earth-bound in these skin suits. That would be nice, but it wouldn’t teach us nearly as much about being people as the other two rivers (and all the other figurative bodies of water we cross, tides we get swept away in, currents that pull on us) do. We all have our own rivers. We all have to learn from them.
I have spent the bulk of my life in these waters and never named them or saw them for what they are. And because of that, I have fought and struggled and nearly drowned, yet never gained an inch. Every time my head breaks the surface and I get to take a breath, I’m in the same spot. I know this sounds grim, but I’m smiling as I write these words. I can break this cycle now and move on.
As long as I am a human being, I will continue to have human issues. I am here for a reason. I have been through what I’ve been through for a reason. The people in my life are here on purpose. That is all I need to know, which means the past can be forgiven, the pain can be released, and I can let go. I don’t need to be afraid.
As long as I need a roof over my head and food in my cupboards, I will have to participate, at the very least, in my own survival. But I don’t have to throw myself into the chaos completely. I do have some say in how much I allow myself to be swept up in the craziness. I can turn off the news, step away from social media, keep my consumption of bullshit low. Listen to my own voice, and let it guide me.
Releasing my fear of the first river, and learning to find my place in the second, I expect that there will be much more peace, much more time that I can choose to spend contemplating river number three. Who knows? Perhaps one day I’ll find the place where they converge. Now wouldn’t that be something?