Red canoe resting on the bank of the Green Colorado RiverContinued from Life Force:

There must be an easier way.

Those words sifted through my mind five years ago as I sat on the front steps of my office building watching traffic flow past. I had stepped out to clear my head, hoping to escape the weight that crushed me inside. The previous six months had been a nightmare with setbacks and difficulties, small and large, pushing me toward an edge I didn’t want to be anywhere near. 2008 had already been one of the worst years of my life even before the economy started to rip apart at its seams that fall. Seven years before, I’d been jolted awake by 9/11, had made significant life changes by learning to fly and starting to write, but little had changed about my primary career. Years had passed and I was in the exact same spot I’d never wanted to be in the first place, mainly, working for someone else, implementing their vision instead of mine. I didn’t feel in control of my own destiny, and I needed to be in control.

Or so I thought.

What am I doing wrong?

Those words echoed in my head as well as traffic continued to stream past until vehicles merged in the distance with another branch of traffic, two rivers flowing into one. The scene resurrected memories of a canoe trip with friends two years before: five days on the Green River in Utah until it merged into the Colorado. Before the trip, I’d been concerned. Could we really paddle sixty miles to get to the extraction point in time, even if it was over five days? But covering the distance had been easy; the river’s current had done the hard work to ferry us past miles of water-worn canyons and natural rock formations that inspired and awed. Short bursts of furious paddling only happened when we spotted potential camp sites and interesting areas on one bank or the other that deserved exploration. The rest had been gentle strokes with the oars.

You. Are. Trying. Too. Hard.

Ask yourself a question, even if only within the confines of your mind, and the answer will come. I’m not sure when I discovered this, but it works. Sometimes it takes days, even months for the answer to reveal itself, but it always arrives. My problem is I neglect to ask most of the time. I’ll wrestle and spar with an issue, spending enormous effort to solve the challenge on my own. I forget I simply need to lob the problem into the universe in the form of a question and the answer always returns eventually.

This time, however, the answer had come almost immediately. But what did “trying too hard” mean? It begged a second question. So I asked it… aloud this time.

“Then what am I suppose to do differently?”

If any passing drivers noticed the man talking to himself on the front steps of an office building, they didn’t let on. And the universe didn’t seem to notice my question either, as no answer came. But sometimes answers pass right before our eyes and we don’t see them until we are ready.

Over the next few months I realized the answer had been right there: the river. The river on that trip knew where it was going so we didn’t have to worry about it. We didn’t fight it, we didn’t try to go the opposite direction, we simply let it carry us to our destination while making gentle course corrections when needed. The river revealed incredible beauty, offering interesting landmarks and details that caught our eyes and begged exploration. And we did. Each mini-excursion into the canyons, both in the canoes and on foot, held hidden surprises and profound experiences that left us exhilarated and fulfilled and bonded us as a group. But we always returned to the river to discover what wonders its flow brought next.

Today I know there is a flow to life, an unseen current that carries every one of us to a fulfilling destination unique to each individual. What’s better is the destination is not even the best part. Along the way are hidden areas to explore, ones that reveal treasures, in terms of knowledge and experience and friendships that will aid you later in your life’s journey.

But too many fight the current. They try to force their will on the river by struggling to move upstream to a place they think they belong. Or they cling in one place, scratching and clawing rocky outcroppings until their hands and soul bleed. I grew tired of clinging, so I let go. Best decision ever. Life cannot be forced. We must flow with it instead.

In the next post I’ll offer ideas that have helped me flow with life. I hope they will help you too.

 

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