Not much is more powerful than a river — or as at ease in being so.
Most every stream, valley, and canyon is proof of that. And every river manages their relaxed power with the same three-step dance. Here’s how to be like them:
1st step: Move
More specifically, fall — fall wherever you feel most pulled. This is a form of surrender, but it’s surrender to what your heart most desires.
This is the one and the only way every river gets all of its power. It’s pulled to an unknown and unseeable destination (a sea) by an invisible and attractive force (gravity). We call it flow.
Once you or the river move in any way, no matter how small, you can’t help but…
2nd. Have an experience
And you can’t help but use your experiences to shape yourself — to form your bed and your banks. In river-talk, these are your dimensions. (AKA: Your edges and foundation. The definitions of where you stop and the world start. Your preferences, your values. Your boundaries.)
This self-shaping happens automatically because, exactly like a river, as you fall, some of your potential energy converts to movement (kinetic energy) and the rest acts on and with the environment around you, picking up bits off experiences, carrying them, shaping them, laying them down. It’s the life’s work of the river and you to build one’s own self. That’s what the power does.
And once you have your bed and banks, you can’t help but…
3rd. Meander, overflow your banks, and in this way — and this way only — build something out in the world beyond your edges. Something beautiful.
For rivers, this beautiful something is called a floodplain. It’s the level, lush place where the river overlaps with the outside world to their great mutual benefit. The river builds, maintains, waters, and nourishes this critical micro-environment that supports and enriches the lives of so many plants and animals, including people. And that floodplain, in turn, saves the river when it floods. Which, exactly like you, it inevitably will do. A healthy river will reach or overflow the top of its banks in one out of every two or three years.
For humans, this beautiful something is called creativity. It’s art, i.e., whatever you make out in the world be that a cake, a business, a new way of thinking about or doing something, a cool experience for others, a baby, or a painting.
Every healthy river has some kind of floodplain, and so does every person. It’s what you make, and that not only contributes to the world but is your safety valve in times of personal flooding. It helps to remember that.
And it helps to remember that you can’t help but do #2 (shape your perfectly unique self) and create beauty (#3) because you are SO powerful.
It’s unavoidable as long as you fall. Just surrender to that unknown tug and flow one little step. Something will happen, and the rest follows. This happens naturally to a river and has been happening to you too! (Unless either of you gets dammed. And that’s okay, because then we just bust the dam and flow on!)
That’s the key to the relaxed part of the equation. Hal Boyle sums it up perfectly:
“What makes a river so restful to people is that it doesn’t have any doubt—it is sure to get where it is going, and it doesn’t want to go anywhere else.”
IMPORTANT! Notice that he never says the river knows where it’s going! It doesn’t need to, and neither do you. It just knows the feeling of allowing oneself to be pulled into flow by one’s own longing, i.e., bu one’s own destiny. That’s all you have to know too. That’s all of your power, and it’s always relaxed. If you’re unsure, just make any random little movement at all. Go for a walk. Take that job offer even if you aren’t sure its “the dream,” go to a coffee shop, just dance in place in your room right now. Once you move, you have accessed your power and you’re heading to where you’re going. Have no doubt.