The River –
“Imagine yourself sitting on the bank of a river. The river is your stream of consciousness. Observe each of your thoughts coming along as if they’re saying, “Think me, think me.” Watch your feelings come by saying, “Feel me, feel me.” Acknowledge that you’re having the feeling or thought. Don’t hate it, judge it, critique it, or move against it. Simply name it: “resentment toward so and so,” “a thought about such and such.” Then place it on a boat and let it go down the river. When another thought arises—as no doubt it will—welcome it and let it go, returning to your inner watch place on the bank of the river.”
#ThomasKeating, “Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel”
One of the greatest and most difficult realizations is the truth that we are not our thoughts. We are not our actions. We are not our egos. True, each of these can reveal things about us and to the world but we are not these things.
The problem is we’ve been taught the opposite most of our lives. The famous quote; “Reap a thought, a word, an action, then a destiny,” seems right but our thoughts do not have to lead us to who we ultimately become. We can choose to go deeper, change paths, refuse to be captive to our thoughts by breaking free of them.
One of the hardest things we do on the path of wisdom is to discover we are not all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise. From the time we are born, we are learning. It might be good, positive lessons, not so good, or, most likely, a mixture of both. As we get older we hopefully begin to separate the good from the not so good. We learn that there are lessons we need to relearn and others we simply need to forget.
One of the most important lessons is we are not meant to carry the mountains we climb. Each of us deals with challenges, struggles, and difficulties. Some navigate incredibly tough paths because of what they endured as children, adolescents, and adults. The climb to the top of the mountain, to overcome these negatives is a great success. However, once the top is reached the question is asked; “What now?” When all you’ve known is pain and heartache it becomes a part of you. Reaching the mountain top doesn’t bring the joy and relief expected.
Unfortunately, some, instead of descending the mountain and continuing on with the journey now free of great burden pick up the mountain and carry it with them. The mountain has become a part of them and to separate from it is like breaking off a piece of themselves and leaving it behind.
Wisdom teaches us how to climb, how to descend and how to let go. It may still feel we are leaving part of ourselves behind but we trust our journey will take us to a place, a discovery of our new selves.
I listened to a mom today tell of a time not so long ago when she and her daughter were not getting along. A long-simmering unspoken argument turned into a loud, heated word-fight in a public place. “I hate you! You never listen! You don’t care what I want! Nothing’s ever good enough for you!” were the words her child screamed that day. Instead of shouting back, the words of her child wounded her heart and she realized; “I might actually lose my daughter if I don’t start doing things differently.” Over the next several weeks she discovered that what her daughter said in an anger tirade was true. This mom was pushing her too much, not letting her discover herself, applying too much pressure on things which weren’t that important. In short, she was trying to make her daughter into what she thought she should be and not allowing her daughter to find herself.
Wisdom tells us that when we attempt to control others, make them presentable to us, what we think is best, we end up either chasing them away or killing the spirit within. Truly loving someone is allowing them to grow, make mistakes, choose different paths, free of our judgment and disapproval. It’s letting them be and loving them.
Your Path –
I had a conversation not long ago with someone who’s trying to stay on a certain path for the rest of his life. I asked him; “How much regret do you have over choices you’ve made, decisions which have shaped your life so far?” He closed his eyes, released a heavy “sigh” and replied; “Plenty.”
I reminded him that every choice he makes takes him down a certain path. “You were born with certain genetics and predispositions. You didn’t choose your parents, the environment you were raised in, the “normal” you existed in that had a big hand in who you were and are today. However, you have the ability to decide if these things will dictate the path of your life or if you will be master of your own fate.”
All paths lead us to our last day. People will gather, songs will be sung, words will be spoken and the shell known as our bodies will be laid in a box, lowered into the dirt and dirt we shall become. What happens after our burial we have no control but the path we take to get there will either be one chosen for us or one we defiantly, determinedly, choose to walk and not waver.