Navigating the River of Life

When I look at the wide scope of interacting with my life, I am talking bird’s eye view of the flux and flow of days. Whether it be weeks, months, seasons, or years.  I can understand why it has been important to get up daily and engage in mindful activities.


Balance should be thought of as a verb, as a continuing work in progress.


I have kept pretty good notes over the years about what I was doing and thinking. Some days which may have extended to weeks and months, I might have been clear-headed, driven, engaged, creative, and felt joy just flowing from me.  Some days which may have extended into weeks and months I have had difficulty finding inspiration, I have been muddleheaded, uncreative, with little desire to engage myself, and the grind of everyday life seemed to have more friction.


 I see enough people in my day to day life to know that I am not alone.  It is an old story. One that runs through all of humanity since the beginning. Every culture has put forth ways of dealing with our desire for things to remain the same, or for them to change more quickly when times are tough. Look around and realize that every single person that you know or that has ever existed shares this common experience.


I know, from a Buddhist perspective, to know the “mind” is to be able to accept that all is changing and that you can’t hold onto any of it.  Happiness gives way to unhappiness, Sadness to joy, anger to forgiveness, one season comes while another is finishing.  The mind knows no increase or decrease it is the medium of experiencing change and life. All we should do is pay attention and let it flow, without grasping. Everything comes and goes. Friction occurs when we convince ourselves we can hold onto what has already changed, or that the state we are in will not change. Happiness is watching/engaging with childlike wonder about the miracle of what is happening now.


One of the reasons for contemplation whether seated or moving is to watch and pay attention to letting all of the distractions just come and go.  Now it helps to have a certain level of fortitude and personal energy. Exercises that bolster our mental and physical strength make the process of engaging change easier. Tools such as Meditation, Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Chi Gung, etc… Arts that not only point to the body/mind but also build strength and energy. The flip side is that activities that leave us depleted and tired make the process of living through the changes more difficult. That goes for everything from what we think to what we do. Change is constant, how we interact with and experience is largely due to the art we employ within our own lives.


I remember from my river rafting days. We were floating down a river with a crazy amount of water and rapids. One of the guys fell out of his kayak, didn’t know how to do an Eskimo roll, and ended up floating down the river holding onto the edge of one of the rafts. The huge waves and the raft thrashed him about like a ragdoll meanwhile many of us were having a great time playing in the rapids. Soon the waters calmed, and we got him back in his boat, and he enjoyed the rest of the trip. Several things occurred to me that pertain to this article.


Just replace the word “river” with “life” or even “your mind.”

  1. It is better to be navigating yourself through rapids than being drug through the rapids.
  2. It is important to have some skills navigating the flow of the river, or you end up being thrashed about by the river.
  3. If you don’t let go of the raft, you get beat up by the raft and the river.
  4. Everyone is on the river. However, the experience of the river can be very different depending upon the perspective.


p.s. As a side note, the picture above was taken while I was guiding a trip down the Colorado River. I was 19, just a year older than my son is now. Look at all of the expressions in that one boat. For me, that was a perfect moment. The trick has been to keep that same attention on small things such as watching my breath or watching my son grow older.


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