The River Flow and Embracing Change

Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Goodman.
Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Goodman.

It seems that in each act of nature there is a kernel of wisdom; an immutable and eternal truth. When we allow ourselves to be really present with the world around us, our eyes are opened and we perceive more. All that is left, then, is to allow our hearts to fully engage and to receive the gift of knowing that nature is gently and lovingly sending our way.

This is the story of me and a river. A river that is, literally, waved in front of my face every day; there being only a narrow road, a field of (right now) Chinese cabbages and a stretch of river bank between it and my house. Like most of the rivers in Japan it is dammed. I walk by this river almost every day with my dog and observe it in all its many seasons.

Today, as on most days, the water is moving freely, glistening in the sunshine, animatedly tracing its path downstream. This is the river in flow; vibrant and healthy; powerful and alive; moving purposefully towards its destination.

Just occasionally, when no water has been released from the dam for a while and there’s been a dearth of rain, the river loses its vitality. It still looks poetic, trickling between the stones and pebbles on the river bed; but the water flow shrinks to a dribble and stagnant pools of it collect between rocks, stranded there without the vitalizing force of the river flow to carry them forward and downstream.

This river has been an important presence in my life ever since I moved to the village. Its beauty and quietness create a resonant peace and stillness in my heart, and I love to walk by its side.

This last year and a half it has also been a profound teacher; demonstrating by example the constant flux and flow of all that is, and reawakening in me the knowing of the necessity of embracing this change and flow in my own life.

As with the river, so it is with us; without any forward momentum our circumstances stagnate and we wake up one day to find ourselves stranded on a river bank in our lives, questioning if this is where we really want to be.

This is where I found myself at the start of last year, forced to confront the fact that the relationship, in which I’d thus far been very happy, wasn’t actually moving forward towards the kind of life of partnership and the shared future that I envisioned.

Even when we know a truth, it can take us such a long time to accept it in our lives; especially when that truth is a painful one.

And sometimes a stagnant pool of water or a familiar river bank can feel so much safer than releasing ourselves into the river flow.

Awakened from autopilot mode, I at first tried to control and shape my reality in a different direction, hoping for change within the relationship that would bring it closer to the kind of life I envisioned.

When this didn’t work, I was torn between the part of me who wanted to cling to the safe and familiar that was not only known, but had also been the biggest source of happiness in my life thus far; and the recently awakened part of me who had begun to accept that the only way I could stay in the relationship was if I chose to deny myself the opportunity to experience what it was I really wanted from relationship: a shared life built together.

This internal battle played out externally in bouts of anxiety, depression and tearfulness, as I desperately clung onto that rock in the middle of the river that my relationship had been and all the safety and security that I thought it provided; fearful to embrace the uncertainty of the river flow, even as the knowing in my heart told me that its time had come and urged me to let go and embrace the resultant deluge, allowing myself to be swept downstream.

Eventually I did pluck up the courage to relinquish myself to the river flow.

And, after a brief respite reminiscent of the stillness at the center of a whirlpool, that was when the resistance really kicked in.

It bewildered me that even though I was the one who had walked away, believing I was making a decision that served my greatest and highest good, I was still experiencing so much pain and strife at this very decision.

It is said that it’s not the change in our lives that causes the stress and anxiety, but our resistance to it.

I now know this to be true on a very personal level. It was my inability to let go internally  – to accept that circumstances and people change and some things just aren’t destined to last; that all of life is change and flow and we can never hold onto anything in the physical world, its security is all an illusion; to forgive myself for not being able to make it work and for walking away from this person who had shown me such love and kindness; to release my attachment to someone who had been such a large part of my life for so long –  even after I had let go externally, that was the cause of my pain; not the actual change in my circumstances.

And in this, too, the river became my teacher; a physical representation of the inevitable flow of all that is, as I learned to consciously release attachment and embrace change and flow.

I spent many an hour walking by the river, exhaling my resistance and attachment to the old, my fears of the unknown, my doubts and insecurities about myself and my future… Breathing in surrender to the river flow, acceptance of what is, the belief that everything in life is occurring for our greatest and highest good, trust in myself and my decision, faith in the Universe and its design for our lives, the courage to step forward into the new and unknown and embrace its infinite potential…

Being by the river and its physical reminder that all of life is flow and change calmed my heart and gave me strength. It showed me the necessity of putting my faith in the never-ending unfolding beauty and flow of life, rather than trying to cling to the illusions of the physical world or control the flow of reality

This was a process to which I had to surrender, just as the water surrenders to the river flow. And, painful as it may have been at times, I now find myself several miles downstream; more connected, more peaceful, more empowered, and facing a whole new view.

During the course of this life shift I have come to believe that just like the river we have a path, and that the flow of life naturally leads us there. I willingly surrender to this flow. I open myself to embrace change and the unknown. I am choosing anew each day to release fear and doubt and to embody courage. it is my intention to live like the river in flow – vibrant and healthy; powerful and alive; moving purposefully towards my destination as I enjoy the journey along the way.

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2 thoughts on “The River Flow and Embracing Change”

  1. Beautiful Julia!
    It made me think of where I am along the river of life. This was a great story to meditate on this morning and to contemplate on through out the day. Thank you.
    The story and the photo also brought back fond memories of my recent visit and how much I loved being there in Nagano. One of my favorite things to do was when we would drive down from the mountain where I was staying and go to Nagano-Shi. We would parallel and cross the river in many areas. It was so mesmerizing for me. I am so grateful for that experience and look forward to returning to such a beautiful area.

    Like

    1. Dear Ron,

      Thank you so much for your comment, which meant a lot to me. I’m so glad you enjoyed the writing and that it led you to contemplate events in your own life, too. Also that Jeremiah’s beautiful photo reminded you of your time here. We are so blessed to live in an area of such outstanding natural beauty. Next time you come I really look forward to meeting you and talking with you, too!

      Like

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