The River Teaches So Many Lessons

I have been yearning to get inside the river for some time, but the near deluge of rain that we have been experiencing this past month has made this difficult. Yesterday, I decided to go for it, even though it was Sunday, and a day I normally tend to avoid because of the numbers of people that tend to visit the park.

I rode into a packed park which immediately felt like it was such a different place energetically. The river was swollen and muddy, and very crowded. I soon discovered that were at least a dozen jet skiers in the water.

Grace, my kayak, and I - tried to maneuver our way over to the first island - but we never quite made it that far. We tossed this way and that, and the skiers, did not keep what I would consider to be a safe distance. I felt overwhelmed, under-gunned, and drowned out by the deafening noise.

I couldn't help but wonder how the wild life reacts to all this noise and behavior. I found myself becoming increasingly angry and frustrated, and then - I simply heard the same voice I had heard earlier in the morning when I took my mother to church. We had visited a very conservative church that is often known for its more intolerant perspective. While I was there, I listened to some issues that were addressed in the homily and which I internally reacted towards. As I found myself become more unsettled and resistant to the homilist's words, I simply heard a quiet voice within me say:

"Take them where they are at;
accept them as they are..."


This became a mantra for me now, on the river, as I angrily wondered how these jet skiers could be so insensitive. Didn't they know I like quiet and communing with nature? In my heart I was led to see that they simply were expressing their version of having a good time - whether or not it was mine. I found myself jumping to all kinds of conclusions and internal judgments. In the midst of these thoughts, I would hear this mantra again:

"Take them where they are at;
accept them as they are..."


It was not easy to listen to this gentle invitation to surrender my thoughts and feelings. It had been so long since I had been at the river. I wanted to enjoy it - not share it! And yet, this river did not belong to me anymore than it belonged to anyone else.

As I tossed and turned, and realized I was never going to make it to the island, I thought back to the Snatam Kaur concert I attended on Saturday. On her new CD, "Liberation's Door," she has a song that contains the words to the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, which has always been one of my favorites. In this moment, I found myself needing to repeat that prayer internally...

"Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is dispair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy

Oh Divine Master,

Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving, that we receive
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned
It is in dying, that we are born
Into eternal life."

I prayed those words, then - as I do now - letting the frustration and anger slowly melt. I emerged from the waters, with my soul feeling a little more free.

The river teaches me so many lessons - some them are unexpected, but others must be re-visted again, and again...

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