The river of life: Which current do you choose?
“Row, row, row your boat.
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily.
Life is but a dream.”
It was the power of myth that attracted your eyes to the title of this article. And it was Carl Jung, a world-renowned psychologist, and his student Joseph Campbell who wrote so elegantly about the “collective consciousness” of the human experience, showing us how symbols and myths are found to exist across all cultures, and how they represent a higher power within all of us.
In this article, I would like to share with you a deep interpretation of myth in the form of a nursery rhyme. This is an interpretation that I frequently share with my patients. The nursery rhyme is above.
So simple, yet so profound. If you think about it, you could say that life really is like a river. And in this river there exists a current that is gently taking you back to the sea from whence you came. As it turns out, it is your responsibility to find your current in the river of life and to go with the flow.
This is not one of those float, float, float your boat scenarios. One does not just surrender to the river of life, to be swept away down, unless you intentionally want to take a ride on someone else’s current.
Instead, you must find your current by tuning into your intuition (inner knowledge). And once you’ve found it, to stay in your current, you must make an effort.
But how much effort? Have you ever felt like you were paddling upstream, putting out a lot of effort, only to find that you are going nowhere? One of the secrets of life is to find your current, and gently row DOWNstream.
In general, staying in your current doesn’t usually require great effort. That is, unless you are temporarily in Class 5 rapids – you know, when the river rages amongst the rocks, as it passes through a difficult time in your life.
Into everybody’s life turbulence will periodically come. It is just part of the ongoing landscape. And when one experiences a turbulent river, one must exert extreme effort to stay away from the rocks to stop from being emotionally bruised. The river is not always an easy ride.
Sometimes, as you travel down the river of life, you may feel like you want to simply grab hold of a rock and hold on for “dear life.” In some cases, you may even want to leave the river, climbing on top of a rock. These are usually periods of great fear.
While it may feel safer to be on solid ground, this is generally a false security. Your journey will not be complete until you reach the sea. So, after a respite, it is better to climb back into the river of life and continue on downstream.
The river of life may also contain obstacles (rocks, logs, bridges, etc). Along with these obstacles are eddies, a pooling of water where some of the river seems to go in circles. Anyone who has ever kayaked knows that you can find a free ride upstream by finding an eddy.
The problem is that some people seem to get stuck in their eddies. They may spend years of their life going round and round the same portion of their rivers, visiting the same old issues again and again. They don’t seem to be growing and thriving. Their journey downstream seems to be temporally stopped.
To leave an eddy behind, you must intentionally row yourself out of it. You must not only have the desire to leave the old issues behind, you must also learn to stroke the oars at just the right time, to get up just enough courage and speed to enter back into the stream. Once you do, there is no turning back. Your life will be changed forever.
So far, I have dealt mainly with the first two stanzas of the nursery rhyme: Gently rowing downstream. Suffice it to say that the last two stanzas of the rhyme seem to indicate that if you can learn how to stay in your current, your life will be happy (merrily, merrily, merrily) and that your dreams will come true (life is but a dream).
Jeffrey R. Cram, Ph.D., is a holistic psychologist with a practice in Nevada City. He uses psychotherapy, biofeedback, flower essences and music to assist people through their transformational change process. He can be reached at 478-9660.
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