Sit By The River

photoThe back deck of the Minturn Inn overlooks the Eagle River. We sit in the sun and are mesmerized by the sound of the rushing water. It is liquid peace. In this moment I believe that people seeking to develop a meditation practice should begin sitting by a river. The water easily carries away all thought and worry.

The river is a great giver of perspective, a great deliverer of presence.

I am struck by this power of the river – and it is a power. We easily grasp nature’s power when a tornado levels a town or an earthquake devastates a city but forget that there is a flip side, a quieter side to nature’s ominous power. There is a vast quiet. In our world peace seems nearly impossible to achieve yet in less than a minute, sitting by the river, I am steeped in peace. That is an awesome power!

I once read (somewhere) that we have a vibrant internal compass capable of ringing true from false, right from wrong. If we make a choice that is out of our integrity, the compass spins wildly out of control, setting off an unstoppable inner monologue, a great inner debate. If the choice is in alignment, the moment passes unnoticed. True north is known by the absence of spinning. Inner quiet is an affirmation. Nature – including our inner nature – doesn’t lie.

Sitting on the deck, breathing in the mist and peace of the rushing water, I know that what’s most important in this life, the real art, happens in the quiet spaces, the moments that thought cannot penetrate, the spaces that require no definition or justification. They are the moments ripe with gratitude. They are the moments dripping with appreciation. I know that all the debates and disagreements and defenses are paper tigers. I also know that this peace is not the province of the river. It is, in fact, available all the time. The river simply reminds me to hush up and listen.

2 Responses

  1. That is so true! The river just reminds us to shut up and listen! And the trees are watching with their words of wisdom too…

  2. Ironic–to me at least–that Ian mentions the voices of the trees in connection to your reflections on the power of a river to bring us peace.

    Just last weekend I put those two together similarly.

    I was doing my “You Are Here” talk at the campground at Lake Alpine in the Sierra Nevada. This little narrated set is a reflection on a month I spent in the high country two years ago. It is a recounting in spoken word and music of some of the nearby locations I visited as a way of encouraging campers to experience them for themselves.

    But even more so I try to make the program a glimpse of the messages it is possible receive from the mountains, the waters, the living world and–most significantly–from what I’ve taken to calling the Spirits in the Stones–the most ancient, enduring and patient of the voices of wilderness.

    People have lived in the Sierra for at least 10,000 years. I like to think echoes of their voices have been captured and preserved by the rocky landscape itself. We can receive the wisdom of the Spirits in the Stones if we slow our pace long enough to listen for them.

    I had a song in the program already–Bill Staines’ “River”–which parallels David’s sentiments about the calming message of flowing waters. I was looking to add something new to this year’s re-run presentation. Great friend and bandmate, Tony, had composed a lyric and put it to a tune he titled “Walking in the Trees”. A hiker and wilderness admirer too he came up with it just after I was describing to him my long visit in the high country two years ago. I put my solo arrangement of it into my talk last weekend. It’s in there shortly after “River”.

    It has become my view–my faith–that all elements of nature have that power to produce peace. It is surely why so many are drawn away from their urban lives and back to natural places. But those places need not be grand scenic vistas. The same peace can be found in the dandelion growing in the nearest vacant city lot.

    It is, in the end, a choice either to “shut up and listen” to these sources of strength–no matter how great or humble or where we encounter them–or to hurry on by.

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