There is a parable that has served me whenever I am transitioning into something big. It goes like this.
- Along the bottom of a great crystal river lived a village of creatures who clung to the rocks and twigs to hold against the current. The water flowed with great ferocity. Tightly the creatures gripped their river bottom to hold against the flow.
Eventually one creature said, this current seems to know where it is going. I am tempted to let follow this movement. The other villagers cried, “no, no, you will be dashed and bashed against the rocks. The only way to survive is hang on here forever.” And so the creature stayed for a while longer, struggling to control his grip against the powerful flow.
One day, in a depressed, fatigued moment, he said “if this is all there is then I choose to let go and at least die in the adventure. All I know is clinging, and gripping and resisting the momentum of this terrible current and it is not enough.” In one breath, he pried his fingers from his small rock. Immediately he was taken, rolled, and tumbled into many obstacles becoming bruised. And for many long moments, he thought ‘what have I done?’
Sweeping around the curve in the river, he became aware that he was aloft in the clear waters. Below him were other villages of creatures who noticed him, and cried “look there is one like us who flies!”
And he pondered his long life of clinging, and his life now of flying, and he was glad.
This parable from Richard Bach’s book Illusions inspired me as I moved, left a long relationship, changed jobs and cities when I was young and lived in Florida. Shall I cling to the old, or let go into the flow of the unknown and see what it reveals? That choice to let go of a life where I was not truly happy, allowed me to move into a life that held more fulfillment.
I left my profession as a private investigator and repossessor, collection agency manager, and went back to college, finished my undergrad work, worked in the Career Office of Eckerd College, and fell in love with Academia, small private schools and the community that worked together to support the education of young people. That move allowed me to also study Humanistic Psychology (which was a forerunner of transpersonal psychology), to practice Tai Chi at dawn along the bay seawall, immersed in salt air, and pelican cries as we watched the sun rise. My roommate was studying Psychosynthesis in her Master’s program, and I began my long term love affair with Roberto Assagioli and Carl Jung.
Deeply part of that three years was Rolphing and attending Laws of Life classes, Shusta, the Kaballah, Dream Analysis, Huna, Astrology, and exposure to other ancient wisdoms and esoteric philosophies such as Theosophy, taught or offered in the bookstore of The Temple of the Living God, my spiritual home.
It was the most fertile period of my life, for it held the seeds of all that I pursued for the rest of my life.
Had I held tight to what I knew at the bottom of the river as it pressed forward, I would lack so much depth and breadth.
Richard Bach’s metaphor continued(s) to help me remember the possibility of flow. With each shift of life, there would come a time, when I would become clutching and rigid again, holding to what I knew, rather than experience that majesty of drifting in the flow. And by now, I knew that to let go meant some mighty bumps and bruises before I was swept into the flow of the current.
“Am I flowing, or clutching the river bottom?” became a question I would ask as my life would continue in a cycle. Many times, I found I was clutching the river bottom.
Richard Bach became one of my internal mentors as I read Bridge Across Forever, and One. I had begun writing in my late teens. His storytelling imparts great wisdom in a compelling way. I wanted to model myself after he and his wife. I was fascinated with his way of living, perhaps in a trailer with books overflowing both sides of his bed, living with the love of his life, trying to save a forest of trees. Then later he moved from Oregon to the San Juan Islands. As I read his story, I felt those islands call to me.
It is only now in hindsight that I see the deep desire that was covered by the strong belief I could never do it. The belief was so strong that I never held living in the San Juans as a goal. Besides, I was married, had small children and lived in Minnesota when I first heard the siren call of the islands.
When I hit the stall last year, I was confused and concerned. I couldn’t lift out of it. My continued use of Psychosynthesis techniques and philosophy over my lifetime suggested that I trust the process. That I trust my process. When one is down, it is much harder to hold to higher levels of understanding, because we have shrunk in awareness, and our capacity to problem solve shrinks.
All I could do is continue to ask the question “what is going on?” When I received no answers, I had to surrender to the process. Yes, I had gotten sick, yes, my dearest brother had almost died and it terrified me, yes, I got into a brouhaha with my closest friend, and we weren’t speaking. Yes, I got into another challenging situation with the community in which I lived. Even collectively, there wasn’t a good enough reason to have taken my urge to write. I have been through many adversities. This time, I dithered. I lost some hope and eventually began to be resigned to where I was emotionally.
However I was asking for help from the universal managers, and any non-human helper that would listen.
Then my roommate brought home this exercise that she had done that had shifted her perspective immensely about someone who had done her great harm with intention. When I saw her attitude had changed in one hour from using a process called NeuroMastery, I wanted to take that class. You can read more about that story by reading Transformation is at hand.
I felt inspired at a time when little had been interesting. I followed that inspiration to act. I signed up for the class. Amazing things happened.
My daughter signed up as well. Between the exercises that I was doing every day, I realized that I had shut off a part of me. One of my dearestly held qualities is that of aliveness. Would you believe that there are a lot of places where aliveness is not treasured. Bringing the fullness of me to many situations where I live was breaking some norms. Others saw it as too emotional, too loud, to consuming, too much.
I had slowly been conforming to what others would prefer from me at cost to myself, and it had all happened under the surface without my awareness. When I realized what I had done (others did not do it to me, I had done it to myself), I had a huge aha. Immediately followed the strong decision that I was not going to give up my aliveness for anything or anyone.
As I shared this with my daughter, she said “Mom. When I saw you three months ago, I was appalled. I didn’t recognize you. You had resigned yourself to getting older and living as you were currently. I didn’t see any dreams or enthusiam for which you are know.” Resignation! As she said it, the truth of that statement resonated inside. The truth was I couldn’t even find any dreams to have. Two major ahas, back to back. They energized me. The decision to embrace my aliveness filled me with resolution.
I had been thinking I would live in this community for the rest of my life, because I love it here. But what to do with the variance between the norms of being business-like, without passion at meetings, and the exuberance I share at the top of my lungs? For the first time, I considered the possibility of living somewhere else.
Now here is how I experience my decisions about identity and where I live. It was like having little latches inside, where as I committed to living in this community, a part of me “latched” into the reality of living here, in this community and in this town. Not too dissimilar from grasping the bottom rocks of the river. Which begs the question, of “how do I live in commitment, but not in rigidity, or resignation?” But that is for another entry.
Simultaneously, the community choir that has brought me such joy changed directors. It was great at first, then later, as the concert approached we got more and more tense about our ability to perform, because we were singing incredibly difficult pieces. I don’t normally go around getting mad at stuff, but I got mad at my director and my section. I noticed that my mad was disproportionate to what stimulated them. I was reacting like crazy. To the point where another latch that I had made to this community because of the choir was unlocked. I grumbled “Choir is about singing, having joy, and this is no longer fun, just hard work.” I was mad enough, and committed enough to having joy in my life, that I wouldn’t waste time in an activity that did not give back to me in fulfillment and joy.
When I moved in with my roommate two years ago, I was in bliss because I lived with someone of like mindedness and we care about each other. When she lost her job last October pushing her into retirement far earlier that she considered, suddenly there were two adults home all day long. I noticed that I was getting cranky about not having enough space in my room. Circumstances had suddenly invited me to consider living alone. The third latch was loosened.
These synchronicities were not brought about me consciously. But there was a deeper process at work behind the scenes.
And it was at this point that I made a pivotal choice. Instead of cancelling my trip to the San Juan Islands, I would go. I was pretty grumpy, energized, and not sure where all the movement was going. There was a lot of bruising. And then when I arrived and stepped off the ferry, I felt my world sync and morph as I began to “Dwell in Possibilities“.
Every time I go to the islands, I remember my journeys through Richard Bach’s world. I don’t know where he lives now, but I think it is still in the San Juan Islands. These islands call to me. I go out to the park, and look over the waters to the mountains rising on Lummi, Orcas, Guemes and other islands.
Every time I head downtown, I crest a large hill and there before me is the Bay and the waters shimmering in the sunlight, or even fog, and my heart leaps.
As I gaze across the expanse of water, my energy flows, lifts, and expands. What would it be like to live closer?