Tonight in a class a woman shared about a dream she had with two rivers. One was turbulent with rushing water and pieces of debris being dragged along with the current. The water was unsettled and muddy.
The other river was calm and clear and flowed along serenely. The person sharing was in a situation with an unknown outcome. She decided to pause and consider that the two different rivers represented a choice. Her choice wasn’t about which course of action to follow in her decision. Her choice was about which river to choose about her reaction to the decision making process. Would she choose to be in turmoil or serenity about the outcome of her dilemma? She chose to be accepting of whatever the outcome was, knowing she would be OK either way. The calm river to her was the river of letting go of anxiety about the outcome of her situation- trusting that whatever happened would be what happened.
I got to use the pausing and two rivers concept right after the class. In a new relationship I was feeling neglected. I paused and considered two rivers: The turbulent one was taking the other person’s busyness personally and withdrawing. I knew the other person being temporarily unavailable had nothing to do with me. In the past that hasn’t stopped me from making up a story that I am being abandoned and reacting with anger, either by accusing or withdrawing. When I paused I could see both rivers. The calm river flowed by. It represented trusting my knowing rather than my story. What if I chose the calm river this time? I knew I could be compassionate with myself about my discomfort. I could show up for myself and reassure myself about feeling hurt. I could comfort myself about feeling sad instead of getting mad and believing my old story. I could then be supportive of the other person completing their current stressful report and offer encouragement to keep going because they were almost done.
I chose the calm river. What a good feeling to deeply know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Pausing before the two rivers was a powerful way to chose anew.
My favorite quote, which I’ve mentioned before, is by Victor Frankl.
Freedom is the pause between stimulus and response.
Reacting with anger or withdrawing in response to imagined abandonment is a patterned response with a lot of history for me. Pausing at the stimulus, which is whatever another is doing that triggers me into my habitual response, allows me to sooth myself and show up for myself about what I am feeling. I can comfort the little girl inside me who felt abandoned by my emotionally unavailable Dad, and let her experience her hurt and anger. I can let her know that she didn’t do anything wrong. I can reassure her that her father was acting distracted and withdrawn because that’s what he did with his own pain. It had nothing to do with her. I could even go back in time to advocate for her with my Dad and let him know that withdrawing emotionally was an unacceptable way to treat a little girl. I could let him know I was taking her home with me where she could be loved in the way she deserved to be. Then I could hold her and let her cry. In this way I could create the shift to begin to heal the past in the present. It’s also important to acknowledge ourselves for choosing the calm river and doing things differently when we do.
Consider pausing and thinking about those two rivers when you are faced with a dilemma or find yourself poised to react in a habitual way. I think it will even be helpful to me after I’ve reacted in a habitual way and chose the turbulent river, to consider what the calm river might have been. Hopefully I can be accepting of what is and forgiving with myself about reacting habitually. Acceptance and forgiveness allows me to be kinder to myself. Kindness and compassion can help create the spaciousness needed to chose a healthier option in the future. Pausing at the banks of those two rivers can be an opportunity to create change that comes from acceptance. That kind of change feels healthy and sustainable to me.
Thank you for listening.