Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
A few mornings ago, I experienced the worst case of anxiety I've ever experienced in my life. Overcome by what felt like an impenetrable sense of loss, I couldn't stand the thought of being alone with myself. It felt like I needed other people to complete me and was really disturbing - especially since, in the vein of Henry David Thoreau, I am someone who normally craves solitude! There was so much energy coursing through my body, and I was about to spend several hours in a mindfulness group retreat. I felt compelled to exercise beforehand to release the energy because if I didn't, it would be impossible for me to wind down and meditate during the retreat. So I exercised but still felt tremendously agitated. Desperate for a remedy or some kind of guidance, I took out my deck of Universal Cards, closed my eyes, and chose a card: WATER. Alas. Not the epiphany I was looking for.
An energetic shift began early on during the mindfulness retreat, which consisted of a beginning meditation followed by outdoor walking meditation, yoga, mindful eating, seated meditation, and group activities that involved eye contact and physical touch. Participants were expected to maintain silence and keep our eyes softly averted from everyone else during all but the final hour of the retreat. Amazingly, I was able to regain a calm, spacious state of mind by the time walking meditation was over!
As the day progressed, the sensation of relaxation only deepened. I never would have imagined this would be possible given where I started! Immediately following the retreat, I spent 2 1/2 hours kayaking on the creek, which transported me even deeper into gratitude and serenity. The natural symphony of the creek was hypnotic and soothing.
Every day since, I have spent a couple of hours after work either kayaking on the creek or balancing stones on the Battenkill River, where I spent a lot of time over the winter.
I've been making a beeline from work to either the creek or the river. It's a blessing to have something to look forward to, and the timing couldn't be more perfect!
Floating on the creek is the deepest therapy imaginable. Among the red-winged blackbirds, painted turtles, and nesting geese, I feel like myself again: spacious and buoyant. Steeped in harmony and reverence, I feel completely interconnected and at one with life.
My body smiles. In the pit of my stomach, there’s such delight. It’s an expansive feeling, which is in glorious contrast to the stabbing, contracted feeling of not being in harmony with the energy around you - the sinking, shrinking feeling. The natural energies of the creek environment uplift me and raise my vibration. The trees and wildlife make no demands. When I feel like paddling, I paddle. When I feel like floating, I float. When I feel like observing turtles, I inevitably hear the sound of them plopping into the water, no matter how carefully I approach them.
Another great thing about the creek is that cell reception is spotty, so I can’t receive messages or phone calls in many areas. That helps me to break free from the tug of technology and enter the spaces where I feel complete and connected in a deeper sense and realize that I have everything I need to navigate this human existence. I perceive life's challenges from a higher vantage point and am profoundly at peace. I bring my phone with me nonetheless to make voice recordings when insights arise. Listening to the recordings later brings me back to the peaceful, spacious space.
Today I decided to balance rocks on the river rather than float on the creek.
Originally, I had intended to do both but became absorbed in the meditative nature of stone balance art, and the next thing I knew, two hours had passed. Balancing stones with my feet in the Battenkill, listening to the sound of the river flowing was every bit as relaxing and therapeutic as kayaking, only different. On the creek, insights tend to arise when I enter stillness, whereas balancing stones facilitates focus and balance.
If there's anything that throws me off balance, it's the fearful belief that there is no safety net and nothing supporting me. But on the creek, that seems to be the greatest delusion of all, and I remember that I must be a fastidious caretaker of my thoughts because they create my reality. Perhaps the sensation of being supported by the water is ultimately what is so appealing about floating.
In hindsight, the WATER card probably was the best guidance I could have received that morning when I was overcome by anxiety. It was the road map back to where I want and need to be. I feel like a sun that is shining again - and that benefits everyone around me.
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