Don’t Push the River

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I’m re-reading Richard Rohr’s Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. I bought the book a couple of years ago at the urging of my college friend, Russell. It was an excellent read, and I got in the mood to read it again – just in case I might have a different perspective now.

I had highlighted the sentence, “You don’t need to push the river because you are in it.” Sometimes, when I’m trying to make something happen, or I’m frustrated or scared at the way something is going, I do a canoeing meditation. In this visualization, I am canoeing down the river of my life. Sometimes the passage is rough, and I am afraid. Occasionally, my boat will capsize. At times, I get out and swim a bit before traveling on. But, the river continues moving forward without – or even in spite of – my assistance.

When I think of canoe trips I’ve made in the past, I keep a beginner’s mind. You have no idea where the river is going to take you or what rock or stump is beneath the water. It is one of the few activities that insist that I stay in the present and watch what is going on. And if perchance I do get stuck on a rock or capsize my boat, there is nothing to do but deal with it. As the title of Rohr’s book suggests, everything belongs. If it’s in the river, it’s there for a reason.

The minute I start thinking that something shouldn’t happen in my life … that someone shouldn’t act that way …. that something is wrong with the world, I am saying I know better than the river.  I will never be able to push the river the way I want it to be. But I can accept the challenges it presents and try to enjoy the ride.


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