Life Lessons from the Colorado River

I’m floating on a raft down the Colorado River with two of my best friends. On either side of us rise cliffs of brilliant red-brown rocks. The water looks like chocolate milk flowing wide and deep.

We are on a four day river trip. We spend our days floating, swimming and laughing. At night we sleep on the river bank under a blanket of stars enveloped in the warm desert air.

We start off laughing and chatting as we set out on the morning of our second full day. It’s only the second day, but I already observe a pattern – all three of us are particularly cheerful in the mornings. 

We are all regular morning meditators, so we decide it’s time to spend a period in silence and meditation while on the water.

After yesterday, I have planned for this moment… I take the paddles. 

Yesterday during our morning meditation on the boat, I discovered that when no one is consistently steering, the current has a lovely way of carrying us this way and that, turning and rocking the boat as it moves us forward at its own pace and rhythm. 

My friends seemed to enjoy this, but it made me feel terribly nauseous.  

I’m not about to repeat that experience, so I volunteer to steer while my companions sit with eyes closed. 

I relax into the zone as time disappears, fully present with the graceful movement of the water. 

I steer just enough to keep us riding the strongest current in the center of the river and keep the raft facing forward. 

I reflect on how much being on this river is like navigating life.

Allow the River of Life to Carry You

When the weather is calm, it doesn’t take much effort to float down river. A little gentle steering and focus bring us quickly and effortlessly forward as we allow Life to carry us. 

Most of us spend a lot of energy stressing about where we are going and how we will get there. 

It’s easy to get hyper-vigilant and then we paddle more than necessary while constantly worrying about what will happen. Meanwhile, the river can do most of the work for us. It will move us forward and take us where we need to go, regardless of our overthinking and overdoing.

All of this extra noise we add to something quite simple only creates conflict and takes away our joy in the journey of life.

Sometimes we start controlling and pushing our agenda. We expend a huge amount of energy trying to control where exactly the boat goes –  paddling to the right, when the current will carry us effortlessly to the left.

Eventually we will end up downriver… One method of travel leaves us exhausted and frustrated, the other way peaceful, rejuvenated, and enlivened.

The river reminds us: Just allow and trust Life to carry you.

Control and worry won’t get you to your destination faster. 

It helps to get quiet so we can be present with the subtlety of the current. How and where to steer ourselves reveals itself in each new moment as we effortlessly work with life’s current.

This co-creative dance allows life to carry us down the most direct path towards what we want and what is most aligned.

And in this way, the journey is pure creative joy.

Be an Active Creator in your Life

On the flip side, when we don’t actively participate in directing our life and our mind, we end up taking detours.  

Sometimes we experience entertaining twists and turns. Sometimes it’s healthy to pause for a little while and enjoy the meandering of the current without constantly pushing towards a destination. There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact it can be fun and part of the life adventure that helps us learn and grow.

If we do this for too long, however, it will take FOREVER to reach our goals.

Without any focus or discipline we get distracted and completely lose sight of where we are going.

Eventually we will find ourselves stuck in an eddy on the side of the river where the water is pushing us backward. If we don’t start steering at this point, the current may push us into some bushes, and we find ourselves completely stuck and not moving at all. 

Unhealthy habits can take over our life. Eventually we may even get sick. We sink into a state of despair as it seems impossible to have what we really want at a deeper level. 

From here it takes a lot of effort to battle the inertia and resistance of the current, paddle out of the swirling water of the eddy, and make our way back into the forward-moving current. 

Once there… we are carried forward once again without so much effort. 

The river reminds us – Be an active participant in your life. Be conscious of your thoughts, feelings, and habits. Have a vision for where you are going. Focus and take consistent action towards realizing that vision.

Trust. Stress and panic won’t get you there faster when storms roll in.

Not long after my lovely contemplative time drifting down the river in a total flow state, the atmosphere suddenly changes.

The wind kicks up and blows full force up river… the opposite direction we want to go.

“This is only supposed to happen in the afternoon!” says Jivan Das, one of my compadres who has traveled down this stretch of river before.

I start paddling harder, but no matter how much I paddle, it seems we aren’t moving forward at all. When I stop paddling, the wind actually starts pushing us backward. 

I notice the part of me that wonders if we will ever move forward again, if we will ever get to our camp today, and if I will get completely burned out paddling with all my strength and make absolutely no forward progress.

Then as quickly as it started, the wind grows still, and we find ourselves  effortlessly moving forward again.

This happened enough times during the course of our journey that I learned the way to pass through these moments of adversity while maintaining my peace is to Trust.

Sometimes storms roll through our lives unexpectedly.

It’s easy to get discouraged or panicked. Panic and stress don’t make the boat move faster… so don’t bother. 

In these moments, keep paddling calmly and trust the storm will pass. It always does. And no matter what is happening above the water, the river always continues its steady drift towards the ocean. 

We go further together

When the wind is blowing full force, it’s a perfect time to call on a friend to help. Two people paddling in unison launches the boat forward at a surprising speed. And teamwork can be quite fun. No need to struggle alone.

Throughout our journey, we all took turns paddling, making it extra fun when I was the one actively propelling us forward, and extra relaxing when someone else was steering the boat and I just got to chill.

During my days on the river, I frequently jumped off the raft and enjoyed the ecstatic experience of just me and the water. It felt so free, and the water carried me quickly. So quickly at times that I had to swim hard up the river to get back to the raft. A single person moves much faster than a raft full of food, gear, and wonderful humans. In those moments, I yearned to float freely as fast as the water could carry my body – far, fast, and unhindered by the raft. 

I knew it would be super fun for a little while, but I couldn’t last long on my own without anything or anyone (not to mention what would happen when the rapids came.. ouch).

This timeless proverb says it best:

“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” 

When life presents challenges, we have a choice how to navigate them… or do we?

In summary: Be present, allow, and  be an active creator of your life.

Simple, yes? But easier said than done. 

We all have our unique flavor of unhelpful ways that we sometimes respond to life’s currents, particularly in stressful situations. For some, it’s anxiety or control; for others, it looks like sitting on the side of the river feeling depressed, stuck, and hopeless. 

What are your default patterns that aren’t serving you?

No matter how much we tell ourselves we will change, most people find themselves defaulting to the same behaviors and ways of thinking and feeling that sabotage their life. 

If you are guilty of this, it’s not your fault. These patterns are held in place by hard wired subconscious beliefs, most of which are firmly in place before age 8. 

Our initial reactions come from our subconscious mind, neural pathways, and nervous system.  Most of us carry deep programs from past experiences of lack, hurt, danger and fear. 

Before our conscious mind even has time to register what is happening, our subconscious, and the part of our bodies wired for survival have already decided how to respond, and the action is done. 

So most of the time, we actually aren’t responding to the present moment at all. We are responding to a past situation that still lives within us.

It’s time to upgrade your subconscious beliefs and programs, and how your nervous system responds to life.

In the last 20 years of my personal transformational journey and working with countless clients from all over the world to shift these deep patterns, I have seen that the fastest and most effective way to fundamentally change how we think, feel, and behave in any given moment, and therefore, what we have in our life, requires us to work with the body and the subconscious mind. 

Transformation doesn’t have to be an “upstream” battle. Plants die when we dig them up from the root. The same goes for these habits and beliefs that create issues with our finances, relationships, health, etc. 

We can do this work on our own, but it’s usually way harder and slower without the right tools, and we can’t usually see our own blind spots. Plus, when we are hurt in relationships, healing happens most effectively within a safe and loving relationship. That’s the value of working with an experienced guide.

If you are ready for rapid and lasting transformation, feel free to reach out to me.

I offer individual and group programs in which I will guide you through a proven process that can fundamentally change your experience of life toward greater joy and success. 

Schedule your free consultation today, and let’s explore what you would like to change and how I may be able to help you.

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