River TIP #2: Fall.
Specifically, fall toward what attracts you.
When you live like a river, ALL of your power and most* of your sense of direction come from letting yourself be pulled by a gravitational force.
Rivers famously wear away stone, move boulders, crush them into bits, and then carry those bits across continents. That strength comes only from attraction. Remarkable.
And what attracts a river is the sea.
Ahhhh, now comes the part where you may whisper: okay, but what is MY sea???? The best news of all is that you don’t have to know exactly WHAT it is that is attracting you.
For most of its journey, the river can’t see the ocean. And even when it’s within sight, the sea is impossible to describe with words. What pulls the river — and you and me — is truly ineffable. It is THE ineffable. And that’s not only beautiful but logistically fine because, like a river, you don’t need to know where you’re going to get there.
All you have to do is follow the pull you feel in the molecules of your being.
I invite you to read more about the cool physics’ WHYs and HOW TOs below and to write me about your experience… in this case, your experience with the fall!
Yours in peace, love, and wild rivers,
River water — like electrical circuits, wire springs, me, and you — has potential.
In physics, potential means: access to stored energy. And this energy is stored within the physical thing itself — within the body. This is the actual science, mind you!
A circuit stores electrical energy, a spring stores mechanical energy, and river water stores gravitational energy:
“In rivers, the potential energy is in the form of topographic elevation above the ultimate base level of the ocean.” Luna Leopold, A View of The River
That’s right, when you live like a river, potential is measured by how far you can fall.
When the river obeys the tug of desire and falls to a lower elevation, it loses some potential energy. “BUT WAIT,” you exclaim, since you have always loved the First Law of Thermodynamics, “Energy can neither be created nor destroyed!” And you are so right. However it can — and in this case, it MUST — be converted to other forms of energy.
As it drops, the river water’s potential is converted to:
- Movement (kinetic energy): Gravity is the only thing that gives a natural river the ability to go anywhere, ever.
- Stream Power (friction energy): Stream Power is the reason rivers inspire awe. It’s what tosses Volkswagen-sized boulders around and carves canyons. The technical physics-term for such activity is Work. Of course, in physics there is no difference between work and play — both are just a force accelerating a mass through a distance, and when you do that over a period of time, physicists call it Power. It turns out rivers work all the time, like dogs. They can’t help themselves, and, like dogs, they do it with such exuberance that we can’t help but find it joyous.
That’s what happens to you too, when you release your potential.
In each moment and place, river water simply flows to the place with the MOST pull.
Okay, yes, there are a couple rubs:
~ This most attractive direction is also the location of the biggest fall.
That might be 1/4 inch (if you find yourself in an E-type stream like the Saskatchewan River) or 1/4 mile (if you find yourself at a step-pool type stream like the 1,320 ft Morning Star waterfall in the Northern Cascades).
So giving in to the tug may feel mundane… OR it may terrify you.
~ There’s also an actual rub, i.e., friction. You may have noticed above that the other name for Stream Power is friction energy. The river rubs against the earth wherever it touches it, picks off pieces of rock or dirt, picks them up and carries them for awhile, drops them sometimes, picks them back up.. and this is the river’s lifework.
Like a river, when you follow your desire, you automatically find yourself doing your life’s work. You can’t help it. There WILL be friction. That’s where the magic happens.
You may be afraid of falling or of rubbing someone the wrong way, but the only way to avoid those would be to hold still. And then you could never access your potential.
Moral #1: Never dam a river. It may turn into a perfectly nice lake, but it will no longer be a river in that place. It won’t be able to do “its river thing.” (Plus of course there are implications for the remaining river reaches above and below the dam as well as for all the living creatures in the ecosystem).
Moral #2: The same goes for you.
When you feel like you can’t tell what genuinely draws you, remember how the river works: following your path energizes you. You can feel it in in your body. A practical description of how to figure out your body’s foolproof inner guidance system is here.
Let go into the pull, and feel your power surge.
* See upcoming TIP#4 for the second steering mechanism. It’s a little un-nerving because noone understands why rivers do it, but don’t worry: they only do it all the time.