Listening to yourself and to life is like white-water rafting. You are travelling on a river called Life which, like any vast river, has its moods and phases.
Your task is to navigate the flow of the river. It’s a moment by moment thing. You need to watch and observe and be in tune with what you are doing and what the river is doing – ALL the time. There are times you need to put your paddle in and row furiously, there are times to gently hold your paddle in position and there are times to take out your paddle, lean back and let the river carry you.
If you put your paddle in at the times you need to let go, you bump into rocks or capsize. If you let go when you need to paddle, you end up going in directions you didn’t mean to, or you don’t move much, or you get stuck in an eddy. (Poor Eddy).
Listening to your inner voice is an exercise in letting go and trusting the river completely while at the same time maintaining mindfulness, consciousness and being fully present. Listening is important in both small and big things. It’s about the partnership between you and the river.
The other day I got to see what comes of paddling instead of gently, lovingly listening and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty!
I had planned to meet up with someone and was really looking forward to it. I just wanted to show up and enjoy a heart connection – which is ironic because I unwittingly did the opposite. I stuck in my paddle when it was time to lean back and let go and the result was a meeting full of bumps into rocks and a startling cold water dunk at the end.
Afterwards I found myself asking for the courage to listen honestly at all times in future because what I now realise is this:
If I listen as closely to myself and to life as I keep saying we need to, I have to relinquish control because NOTHING will ever be like I think it will be. I mean, you can plan to travel a section of the river in a certain way but there are so many factors that contribute to it – your mood, the weather, the state of your canoe, the state of your body… that it will never be entirely in your control. The best you can plan on is how you want to focus and be present to the ride so that your outcome feels good to you.
It’s as simple as this:
On the morning we had decided to meet I received a tentative message from my partner. In the message I could sense hesitation about meeting up that day. Whatever was behind it – reluctance, overwhelm, feeling fragile, under the weather – was irrelevant. The point was, I was getting a communication of uncertainty. But I didn’t want to listen. It threatened my plan for how I saw my river ride that day. “What?” went my inner dialogue, “but I was really looking forward to meeting with you and connecting with you. Listening to you, getting to know you better and enjoying our time together!”
So ironic right? ‘I want to get to know you so I won’t listen to what you are telling me and try to control you instead’. The resistance was so subtle it was easy to override… So I wrote back some version of, “Don’t worry, let’s still meet.”
Was I listening to my quiet inner voice? Nope. It didn’t suit my ‘plans’. So instead of stopping to row, letting go and observing where the stream was moving, I paddled. I pushed. Gently – but still a push.
What was my partner to do? We had made the plan. To honour it was the ‘right thing to do’. So in that moment, without my realising it, our engagement shifted into a ‘head’ thing rather than a ‘heart’ thing.
We were destined for that dunk.
For some reason in that moment I wasn’t able to be brave enough to let go control and let life flow differently to what I had envisioned. I know from watching my own and other’s previous experience that if I had let go, leaned back and trusted the way the river was flowing, it would have turned out BETTER than I had envisioned. But I didn’t.
If I could do it again I would have listened to my partner right from the start. Listened WITH my heart and listened TO my heart. I apologise to us both that I didn’t.
So, I ask for the courage to listen honestly at all times – knowing as I ask that it means relinquishing control (and the ‘right thing to do’).
Living our best life demands our full and constant heartful attention in each moment. There’s no space for past or future in full living and honest listening. There is only now, and now, and NOW on the Life river.
Scary stuff maybe – but WAY more interesting, exciting and satisfying than trying to control it all.