Masters throughout the ages have compared life to a river. I’m no master, and yet we recently floated on Clear Creek in Golden, CO and it struck me that tubing is such a beautiful metaphor for life.
If you've never been tubing, you walk with this large inflatable tube that is easily half your size until the spot on the creek where you want to start floating downstream. In Colorado, the water is so cold it takes your breath away, and we had so much rain this year that the current is still strong. You pop up onto your tube, and your ride begins. Kind of like how the ride begins the second you are born.
My arms were trying to reach the water from outside of the tube, while my butt and feet were in the water. This position doesn't provide the 'rider' much control. I could try really hard to force the water in a certain direction with my hands, but it took a lot of energy and I really couldn't get very far. It struck me that I was along for the ride; I could flow with the water or I could try really hard to get somewhere else.
On this particular ride, I wasn't ever in any real danger, but sometimes I was scared. I held on tighter to the tube, my heart raced, and I tried to paddle with my hands, even though I knew that wouldn't really do much. That is what fear and resistance do in this life. At other times, I was completely at peace and I could just ride along with the flow. That is what peace and flow do in this life.
At the start, the current was swift and carried us along. Some times we could hold on to each other's tubes and ride together, at other times the water forced us apart. Calm sections allowed us the time to look at the scenery of the incredibly colorful mesas around us. Rapids took all of our focus to the water, the tube, and our bodies. There are times in life too that take all of our focus and may feel lonely, and other times where we can catch a breath together and look around.
There were eddies, where water starts to turn in the opposite direction for a bit. These slowed me down, and sometimes pushed me into the bank. Other tubes missed the eddies all together and floated right past me. In life, that happens too - some people seem to float on by having these easy lives. But comparing myself to them or wishing I was sailing along too, only means that I miss the gift of the eddy. In the eddy, I could feel the beauty of the creek, the land, and the sky.
At a shallow part, I felt really stuck and I had to stand up out of my tube, walk along the slippery rocks to deeper water, and then resume my ride. Sometimes in life doing what you've always done doesn't work anymore and you've got to try something new. And sometimes that new thing is slippery.
Part of the fun of a tube is sometimes the water turns you around and you face the opposite direction. What I learned when I got spun around was that the view was better behind me! That was a surprise. Where can we shift our gaze to see something new or differently?
The creek and the tube also provided a level of neutrality for me. When I allowed the river to guide me, I didn't have to know exactly what the next step was (I knew generally I was heading downstream, but I didn't know exactly what would happen at each rapid). There was a flow that supported me, held me, took me where I wanted to go. I didn't have be a certain way (nice, pretty, perfect, rich, etc.) to still get downstream. And this is my experience of spirit, when I get out of my head and let the universe guide me, I feel supported, loved, and safe just because I'm me.
And even though at times it looked like I was getting nowhere, I was on the creek. I like the idea that we are on our path, and it is where we are supposed to be even if it doesn't look exactly like we thought it would. You are always on your path, you can't get it wrong and you aren't being punished. Decide if it's time to walk on the rocks, or stay for the ride. This life is yours to choose.
“A woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself, and only herself.” — Maya Angelou