I love a good physical challenge and adrenaline thrill now and again. So whenever I’m traveling somewhere with a rapid (but still fairly safe) river, I like to go rafting. In the pre-trip safety lecture before one river rafting trip years ago, the guide explained that if for some reason we were thrown from the boat and ended up in the river, the safest thing to do was to point your feet downstream and float with the current. “Don’t struggle, or try to grab onto anything to stop yourself or change your trajectory,” he warned. That’s when injuries happen, because you’re more likely to strike a rock or get pulled under as you flail around. Instead, just relax, point yourself in the right direction with the current of the water, and let the river flow.
This metaphor has resonated strongly with me when trying to accept challenging situations or make difficult decisions in my life. When faced with a challenge, I ask myself, will making this decision or taking this action be going WITH the flow of my life, or will it be flailing against it? If I could really just accept and make peace with the truth of the situation, and allow it to be as it is, what would I need to do?
Acceptance. In order to let the river of my life flow, I have to first get clear and accept that this is what’s happening. Now, I generally feel like with a lot of dedication and hard work I can effect the course of my life. We are the creators of our lives, so with good planning, decision making, perseverance, and a strong belief that you can make it happen, you will. It seems healthy and empowering for me to me to believe I can create the life I want.
But, sometimes life throws us unexpected curveballs. Some things are out of our control. We get laid off right at the holidays, we don’t get accepted to a school or program we really wanted, a relationship ends and we have to move on, we are asked to provide significantly for a family member, or we get sick, or lose someone or something that we love dearly. Those things are happening too. And we didn’t ask for it, cause it, or plan for it. The question is, can we still be with it, and even welcome it?
Trust. In order to use the “let the river flow” mantra, I’ve had to get really present with what is happening, what the actual flow of my life is, so that I can do my best not to force another outcome. I ask myself, what decision or course of action is most like pointing my feet down the river, and allowing the current to guide me to safety? When I can find and accept that direction, going with the flow allows more ease, less struggle, deeper breathing, and often unexpected joy.
Using this philosophy has required I strengthen my “trust” muscle, because if I’m going to “let the river flow,” I have to trust that the boat will come pick me up in the end. That I will float to safety. I’ve also had to practice letting go of expectations, and attachment to pre-planned outcomes.
So as we close out 2015, and you look back at your year, I hope you can say with profound acceptance…
“And so it is.”
We can talk about setting intentions for things to be just as you want them next year, and there will be plenty of time for that. But before we end this year and move on to what we want to be different next year, I hope you can allow your life to be just as it is for a moment, and love it for what it is.
When faced with unforeseen challenges, big or small, what can you do to make it easier on yourself? Can you trust that the boat will come and pick you up? My end of year wish for you is that even if in the moment it feels scary to let go, you can point your feet down the river, knowing you’ll get picked up in the end.