The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.
Here in the great Northwest we live in magnificent rivers, watersheds that created the coastal temperate rainforest.
You might enjoy this shift of focus to my metaphorical world about rivers. I coach, serve as trail guide for people who are going across thresholds, around bends in their river where they have trouble seeing where they are going. This conversational nature of reality helps them transform their lives.
I've been given a gift of seeing people who want to get out of suffering and help them tune into their wisdom, see their light and help them enter into a deep conversation on how to transform their suffering into joy.
And I've come to believe that all our suffering is in attachments while we are in this river of life. It finally went in after 60 + years of being told that by friends and family, spiritual teachers, rocks and trees. Trees let go of leaves every year and look how much they contribute to our lives. Isn't it a miracle?
For instance, a friend complained to a school psychologist about how he just couldn't let go of this woman who just dumped him while he was in college. You know her or him, right? Your one and only beloved? The wise college psychologist heard the student talking about how he couldn't live if living was without her and he paused, said "Let's pretend I'm not a psychologist who can help you, but two men talking to each other. OK? Then he looked my friend in the eye and said "Go out on a date this week."
My friend went out on several dates and changed his life in a simple pivot of attention.
You see this all the time, right? We don't have any say about being born or when we're going to die, but we get stuck in eddies and hang on to our broken heart or our critical voice or whatever stuff because around the bend is coming and it is uncertain. We prefer the known suffering to the surprise of living in the present. (I know I do at times.)
So the river of life is river of joyfulness, river of sorrows. Same river.
I teach loving kindness meditation because it has helped me disengage from the story that it is suffering. There is actually a third place to live which I can tell you experience when you are immersed at work, exercise, laughter, great meals with friends, in love, or on the river in your kayak, right?
So that is where to live for me-- in the river letting go. We're always shedding anyways. The self that was here yesterday is no longer here in reality. We just have this mindset that is looking for threats 5 times a second, roving from past to future and back again, with very little time spent in the present.
I'm 63 and roll into 3 hours of exercise a day: swimming walking and yoga mostly. That is how I ground and get to "here, presence."
But I have this cool teacher who is 40 in my local gym leading body repair shop -- our bodies. Josh wears tights with muscles illustrated on them that gets women in our class all kinds of amusement. He's a stud no muffin.
And he gets his blue racquet ball out the other day and says lean into the tight trap or whatever muscle is bothering you, and then notice that the muscle resists at first, and then relaxes after a few minutes. And breathe. So we all do as instructed. Release.
He says "work cross stream from where you are tight, then downstream and upstream."
I just love that teaching because it is what I teach people in life. Always look for teachers (upstream) that you can bring off their pedestals and toward you.
Then cross stream have your tribe of peers or circle of friends-- a small team you can be transparent and vulnerable with to make changes toward your true nature.
And then teach downstream. There are all these people who want to learn from your wisdom, how you found what excites you who are younger or new to what you know for certain.
That is why I made the Cascadia watersheds map, showing the coastal temperate rainforest boundary waters from San Francisco to Anchorage.
I call it my go away map because when I look at it I go away. Canada, Cascades, California. We even go as far east as Yellowstone. Beautiful world. And this map represents our original network before roads and political boundaries started defining our idea of place.
Forever grateful to Alan Durning and Sightline Institute for wanting to create this beauty and light with me about 20 years ago.
The map is not for everyone. A kayaker named Ben just ordered three for himself and his kayak buddies. Fishermen and women get them as gifts for great adventures. And greens like me made the map so I could see the boundaries of my country tis of thee, Cascadia.
As poet Gary Snyder captured in a favorite poem:
I pledge allegiance to the soil
of Turtle Island,
and to the beings who thereon dwell
under the sun
With joyful interpenetration for all.
Our PNW Cascadia map doesn't have any roads on it, and the political boundaries are receded so you can see the big river systems, the watersheds of the coastal temperate rainforest. (We considered and abandoned making the map the way indigenous people people saw it-- upstream and downstream. So the map would be laid out horizontally with the title bar across Montana to northern Colorado. But I thought that would be too much disorientation. So we stayed with north south directions. :)
I made it with cartographers @ Raven Maps, who the Wall Street Journal calls "the most beautiful maps in the world." You can get one of them at Metsker Maps
We are here to take care of this beautiful world. Upstream, cross stream and downstream. See how beautiful it is, how beautiful you are? Let all your fellow travelers in the plant and animal world know help is on the way! You are here.
Be your best self today.