Sunday, July 18, 2010

Life is like a river

The river has taught me to listen; you will learn from it, too. The river knows everything; one can learn everything from it. — (Herman Hesse, Siddhartha)

Rivers are the lifeblood of the earth. Their waters flow from the mountains to the sea offering transportation, recreation, irrigation and inspiration.

Even when rivers appear calm and still, they are constantly moving from their source to their destination. When the banks of the river become narrower, the power of the river increases. As rocks get closer to the surface of the river, they slow the water underneath to form a swell and then a wave. Just below the surface, rocks cause more slowing and the resulting resurgence of energy creates a hole where the water is powerful and recirculates into itself. Rocks above the surface stop the water completely, but the water always wants to fill in that space and become an eddy, a relatively calm spot in the current.

I have always loved rivers. Just sitting by the river calms my mind and is a form of meditation. The sound of the water and the play of sunlight on the surface of the river are magical.

As a whitewater paddler, rivers have taken me on great adventures. The goal of paddlers is to find what we call a "line" where we use the river features like waves, holes and eddies to navigate through turbulent water. When I ride that line and work with the power of the water, there is a feeling of being one with the river. It is simply euphoric.

Wilderness river trips immerse you completely into a world where the distractions of daily life with all its technology and busyness disappear and are replaced by a sense of wonderment and appreciation for the beauty of nature. On calm stretches of river, you can completely surrender to the flow of the current. On pushier, rougher stretches more effort is required, but without the balance of surrender to the unpredictability of the current, your journey will just be a struggle where the river will ultimately win. There has to be a willingness to join forces with the river and give up any desire to dominate or control her.

Our breath is the lifeblood of yoga. It carries nutrients, oxygen and prana, the life force, into our bodies. When we fully appreciate our breath, our life will become more harmonious and filled with power and contentment. Yoga gives us the opportunity to slow down and be with the breath. Just as a river needs boundaries to create its form, we need to be aware of the form of our bodies in our poses and our own boundaries as we practice each pose. Rivers are always moving and pulsing with the current, however subtle that current may be. Our poses should reflect the wisdom of the river so that we move with the breath and consciously pulse between our center and our edges to feel the pose to our fullest.

It is impossible to know every twist and turn of the river. Rocks get moved around, water levels change affecting the character of the river. But the river, with resolution, flows on. These changes are the heart and the soul of the river. Contentment comes from moving with the flow, pausing in the eddies and jumping back in the current of life with enthusiasm, patience and acceptance.

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