Mountains of My Heart by Nancy L
Rivers hardly ever run in a straight line.
Rivers are willing to take ten thousand meanders
and enjoy every one
and grow from every one.
When they leave a meander,
they are always more
than when they entered it.
When rivers meet an obstacle,
they do not try to run over it.
They merely go around
but they always get to the other side.
Rivers accept things as they are,
conform to the shape they find the world in,
yet nothing changes things more than rivers.
Rivers move even mountains into the sea.
Rivers hardly ever are in a hurry
yet is there anything more likely
to reach the point it sets out for
than a river?
James Dillet Freeman
1. To follow a winding and turning course: Streams tend to meander through level land.
2. To move aimlessly and idly without fixed direction: vagabonds meandering through life. See Synonym wander.
[From Latin maeander, circuitous windings, from Greek maiandros, after Maiandros, the Maeander River in Phrygia, noted for its windings.] From http://www.thefreedictionary.com
We call upon the waters that rim the earth, horizon to horizon,
that flow in our rivers and streams, that fall upon our gardens and fields,
and we ask that they teach us and show us the way.
How do I stay true to myself as I flow though this world?
“Do I change like a river, widening and deepening, eddying back on myself sometimes, bursting my banks sometimes when there’s too much water, too much life in me, and sometimes dried up from lack of rain?
Will the I that is me grow and widen and deepen?
Or will I stagnate and become an arid riverbed? Will I allow people to dam me up and confine me to wall so that I flow only where they want?
Will I allow them to turn me into a canal to use for they own purposes? Or will I make sure I flow freely, coursing my way through the land and ploughing a valley of my own?”
–Aidan Chambers, This is All
Can I keep flowing and resonating with my joy, my truth, even when surrounded by others who are awash in sorrow or fear or rage? How do I hold my ground and allow the world to be however it is today? I will not do any good to anyone if I drop my light, my joy and resonate with the pain of those around me.
Maybe it isn’t cruel or crass to stay joyful while others in the world suffer. What if our joy is the most potent medicine there is for the wounds of the world?
I want to acknowledge joy as the amazing gift it is. And to keep opening to joy, even in the face of the darkness and pain in the world around me. May I hold my joy sacred and allow it to flow far and wide.
“But just as the river is always at the door, so is the world always outside.
And it is in the world that we have to live.”
“Life always gives us exactly the teacher we need at every moment.
This includes every mosquito, every misfortune, every red light,
every traffic jam, every obnoxious supervisor (or employee),
every illness, every loss, every moment of joy or depression,
every addiction, every piece of garbage, every breath.
Every moment is the guru.
–Charlotte Joko Beck
My experience of awareness; I take Dog Goddess Brigit on a walk by the river. We walk the same path almost every morning. On many occasions, I have returned from our walk and realized that I didn’t really notice my surroundings at all that day. I have been completely lost in my thoughts, unaware of what was right in front of me. I have been wrapped up in planning my future or ruminating on my past and the river slipped by unnoticed by me.
But some days are different; some days I actually focus on the path and my steps and the sounds on the wind. I notice the feel of the leash in my hand, the smell of some bush or tree nearby. And those moments when I am actually present and aware are so potent! On my aware days, I notice many new things that I never noticed before – even though it is the exact same path Brigit and I walked yesterday. An aware walk is magical.
It is as though I am more alive in aware moments. Awareness amps up my sensations and makes everything richer and fuller. For me, even awareness about something heavy and hard like sorrow or pain beats feeling half alive. I’ve learned that numbing out and avoiding yucky emotions and sensations comes at a price – if I numb out, I will also lose the yummy sensations and emotions that make my life sing.
Meditation teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn describes awareness as being mindful, being present with whatever is in this moment. He calls it the art of “falling awake”. Ram Das tells us to Be Here Now. Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of dwelling in the present moment. Not just living… dwelling in the moment. Seems like a very simple idea. And I find it very difficult to pull off most days!
Modern life seems to be about distraction rather than awareness; we distract ourselves by turning on TV shows we only half watch. We woof down food we don’t really even taste. We walk around dreaming of tomorrow or lamenting yesterday. We surf on the internet, popping from screen to screen without really taking any of it in. We pride ourselves on being able to do 3 things at once, even when we can’t actually remember much about doing any of them! Is that living?
I suspect that Dog Goddess Brigit is at least 100 times more aware than I am on any given day. My big, “superior” human brain gives me the ability to analyze and plan far beyond anything a dog can plan. And those same human abilities complicate the simple act of staying present and aware in this moment. My strength is also my weakness. Can I stop planning and analyzing long enough to notice what is here, right in front of me? Analysis is as useless as a dog chasing her own tail when it comes to being aware.
I wonder how much I miss when I am walking through my day half aware of what’s around me here and now? What would it take for me to double or triple how many moments of the day that I am actually present? What if I stop analyzing EVERYTHING and put my big, silly human brain to work sensing and perceiving what is here in front of me? What is the value of analyzing what happened yesterday if I miss today? How much richer can my day to day reality become if I make awareness my priority?
☾ ☼ ☽
“May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”
~Rainier Maria Rilke
When I get impatient with myself or the world, I try to pause long enough to remember the river, the flow of the river that I love so much. When life does not instantly present me with the exact and perfect outcome – the perfect and glorious outcome I had all planned out in my head in excruciating detail – at those times, I try to remember to just breathe and flow with how things ARE, rather than how I wish they would be.
Resistance is futile; life is NEVER perfect. And life unfolds in its own wild and wonderful way, no matter how hard I kick and scream and struggle and fight against what IS, trying desperately to get the exact future I had imagined and dreamed of.
Sit and breathe. And breathe some more…
until I can stop whining and fighting against what is unfolding right here and now in front of me.
How horrible to miss out on today because it doesn’t look exactly like my dream of it yesterday!
Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is.
The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
One of the many things I love about living in Lyons, CO is the pathway that follows the St. Vrain River. This river is why the town of Lyons was placed in this spot. It’s a special place where 3 creeks converge into one and form the St. Vrain River. Water is valuable here in the foothills of the Rockies; it is absolutely required for human life, and the dry climate can make it quite scarce. The Ute Indians knew this – the tribe lived in this area for generations. And in the 1800’s, when the white guys arrived, they looked around and decided this place by the river looked like the perfect spot to stop and settle down. I agree with them – it’s a bit of paradise.
Even in the heat of July, the riverbanks of the St. Vrain are wet and green with growth. The open grasslands around here are yellow and dry, but the banks of the river overflow with green growth. And the temperature literally drops 5-10 degrees within the shade of the trees lining the river. That’s probably why the path that follows the St. Vrain as it meanders through town is a favorite spot of mine for walks with my hubby David and Dog Goddess Brigit.
Rivers are a natural travel route for humans and other hairier mammals as well as birds, reptiles – it seems every form of life is drawn to the river. Dog Goddess Brigit has a field day sniffing her way down the path every morning. I wonder if she can distinguish which animals came by the night before? I wouldn’t doubt it – dog noses are amazing!
Today I am grateful to live in a home that is within walking distance of the St. Vrain River and its gorgeous, green riverbank trail.
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.”
– Norman Maclean,
A River Runs Through It
Yesterday the dogwood tree in my yard was covered with green leaves; this morning all but two low branches are deep maroon. Amazing how fast that shift happened. Autumn has been whispering its way towards Kansas City for weeks. The wild rainstorm yesterday seems to have signaled its official arrival. The air is cooler, crisper today. And I notice leaves turning yellow, orange and maroon everywhere I look. Changes in my personal life are like that; little hints of change and subtle shifts happen that I often miss or ignore. Then, wham, a storm blows through and in the aftermath I look around surprised to see profound changes in myself or those around me.
I took a walk down the creek path this morning. The day is gorgeous; sunny with a cool wind and high wispy clouds in a bright blue sky. Jacket weather is here. Quite a contrast with yesterday’s cold gray skies and hours of torrential downpour. The heavy rains left the creek high, very high. And the storm water has noticeably altered the creek in just one day. In one spot, long hairy orange tree roots dangle in mid-air over the far curve of the creek bank. Yesterday the roots were encased in dirt; today they dangle free and unsupported. I have had days like that – I wake up to discover that the very ground I have been rooted in and attached to is suddenly gone.
Most humans are not very good at handling change and I am no exception. With change comes fear; that feeling of the world shifting out from under me, of dangling in mid-air without support is very scary. Sometimes I get stuck in that state of fear and I start to worry that problems and instability are all I have to look forward to.
I say that I believe in a benevolent God; a God who takes care of the earth and all living creatures; a God who it omnipotent and all-knowing; a God from which all of life flows. And yet when my path gets rough or the world seems dark, I have trouble trusting that God truly does know what she is doing and all is well.
Any change or shift in my life can trigger the fear. The shift can be something as simple as a change in my schedule or diet, or as profound as divorcing my first husband. The size or importance of the shift does not necessarily determine how well I cope with the change. Any shift, big or small, can be difficult.
The trees on the creek bank seemed to handle change better than I normally do. Trees instinctually know to lean away from instability and sink new roots into whatever ground is left to support them. In contrast, I flounder for days, feeling angry and off balance, bemoaning whatever changed in my life. I grieve for the support I lost. I forget to breathe and lean into the support I still have.
Trees have a visceral trust in the Universe or Earth to support them and provide for them no matter what happens. I have trouble trusting in the good of the Universe that profoundly in the midst of change. I get caught up in grieving what I have lost instead of opening to what is now possible. I forget to pray or meditate and I lose my connection to ground.
Faith and trust in the good of God is my ground, the core bedrock that won’t shift out from under me no matter what. For me, faith and trust come from cultivating my internal KNOWING sense of God as good and benevolent rather than mean or indifferent. That loving essence of God is always with me, around me, within me. I sense it when I work with clients, when I pray, when I watch children play, when I hug someone. And yet I also forget it again and again. I lose my connection to God and I flounder.
Buddhism tells me that I suffer when I cling and grasp, when I try to keep things from changing. Nothing is permanent except Buddha or God. And Christianity tells me to build my faith on the rock of Christ. Judaism implores me to trust in the Lord. Peace of mind comes from letting go and trusting that God or Buddha is in charge. Letting go and trusting in God to handle the affairs of the world is the only answer.
I find that I must tend to my trust and faith like a tender young seedling in my garden. My faith needs to soak up the sun of other people’s loving, positive energy. And then I must water it with prayer and meditation; and trust that it already knows how to grow;
I must feed my faith by actively noticing the good in people, the love in the world. Water and feed, water and feed until my tiny bit of faith and trust in the good of God grows stronger, more resilient, more certain. Water and feed my seedling again and again until one day I discover that my seedling has grown bigger and stronger and is deeply rooted in all directions. Then every little shift no longer throws me into doubt and fear. I can be as calm as the trees on the bank of the creek. I can remember that all is well.