“A river body reveals the river’s present health, its trend, AND its highest potential.”
— Like A River Credo
When designing a stream restoration, I aim for the stream’s best natural state. And the stream itself — its geomorphic character — shows me that ideal.
BUT wait… if it needs repair, then that stream’s destablized. How can I possibly learn about health from an unhappy river body?
I find a reference reach.
It always seems like a miracle
No matter what untoward events have occurred in a stream’s life, one healthy fragment remains SOMEWHERE. Usually there are several. Each lovely piece, no matter how tiny, provides a hint about that stream’s true nature.
Like a river, YOUR experience of life contains clues — incredibly specific messages as to the nature of your true calling and how to fulfill it. I guarantee it.
Identifying a personal reference reach
First, let’s set up your own stream-of-life-meter (aka Body Compass in Martha Beck‘s writing) to read your “earthen body.” Imagine a linear scale running from -10 to +10.
At one extreme, -10 represents your human equivalent of feeling like a gutted river with raw banks, piles of goop in the middle of the channel, abrupt drop-offs, and flotsam-laden scour holes.
On the other end, a +10 is when you feel like an idyllic stream in perfect health, full of life.
To calibrate your stream-of-life-meter:
1. Remember a fairly bad memory, something on the order of a -8 (no need to revisit total despair!). Close your eyes, relive the bad time, AND notice exactly what you feel in your body. I don’t mean emotions like sadness, fear, or anger, but rather sensations such as tightness, heaviness, heat/cold, numbness, pain, or perhaps, like a river… eroding and clogging. Where in your body do you feel what?
I want you to be able to remember this state without having to relive it, so assign this cluster of sensations a nickname like “ick” or “the burning weight” or whatever captures the fundamental tone.
2. Open your eyes, stand up for a minute, and let that ickiness go. Shake both hands, arms, legs. Take a deep breath in and release the unpleasantness as you exhale.
3. Now remember a wonderful time. A full on +10. It could be a brief second or a whole era. If you find it hard to recall a good memory right after a bad one, no problem — pretend you are breathing perfectly fresh air under a sunny, blue sky. Note each body sensation. As before, name this sensory experience something like “ahh…” or “lightness” so you have a personal shorthand for feeling the joy of a burbling stream.
Once your stream-of-life-meter is ready, give it something to measure: your life!
1. Write out your schedule for the next day or two.
2. Imagine you are doing the first item on your list — pretend you are right in the middle of it — and notice your body. Is it closer to your icky guttered-channel state or your joyful burbling-stream state? Rate it on your scale (somewhere from -10 to +10). It’s not like you have to change anything overnight based on the results, so try not to judge or modify your reading. It’s just super interesting to discover what actually happens. Be lightly curious.
3. Repeat for each task on your list.
All activities that score higher than a neutral “0” give you hints about your calling. This is how your essential self wants you to live.
Anything you rated as high as +8, 9, or 10 is a reference reach, no matter how small. Later I’ll show you exactly how I use reference reach details as a stream/life design blueprint. For now, delve into what you like about those moments – AND DO MORE OF IT!
If your list has only negatives, don’t despair at all. The important thing is that you’ve activated and EXPERIENCED your stream-of-life-meter. Once tuned into your body’s incorruptible wisdom, there’s no turning back from a life more authentically YOU.