One of my favorite places on the planet is Strathcona Park Lodge and Education Centre in British Columbia, Canada. When I was 15, I went on a five day field trip with other students at my high school. We went hiking, canoeing, rock climbing, and listened to our math teacher play the accordion. It was here that I really began to love being surrounded by nature. The evergreen trees, the crystal clear lake, and the tall mountains. Just gorgeous. I returned the following summer for another wilderness adventure: we canoed for two days, backpacked for three days, and then canoed back to the lodge for another two days.
On our final canoe trip, the wind was at our backs. Our guides showed us how to take the tarps we used for the base of our tents and create sails for our canoes. We set our oars aside and relaxed. We allowed the wind and water to carry us to our destination. We told jokes, sang songs, and enjoyed the beautiful scenery all around us. By ditching our oars and relaxing a bit, we actually got back to the lodge earlier than expected.
I often look back to that memory. How powerful it was to allow our canoes to be gently guided by the wind and the water. How easy and effortless it felt. How much fun it was to relax and enjoy the ride.
So often I find myself paddling upstream. Working long hours. Pushing myself to get somewhere. Putting in a tremendous amount of effort, yet feeling like I’m getting nowhere. It’s hard work. And it’s not fun. Paddling upstream, against the current. Against the flow. Absolutely stuck. Feeling anxious to move forward, but not sure how. Sound familiar?
Somewhere along the way I think most of us have learned this message: if you want to get anywhere, you gotta work hard, sweat, and to some extent … suffer. Keep pushing. Keep trying. No matter what.
My yoga practice – and my mom – remind me over and over again that to get where I want to go, I need to ditch the oars and go with the flow. Flow downstream. Relax. Trust the process. Let go. Enjoy the journey.
When I call my mom in a fit of frustration, she often asks me, “Is this an upstream thought or downstream thought?” Right. Usually I am paddling so damn hard upstream that I forget what it is like to simply turn around, take in my oars, and go with the flow.
The year 2011 was an upstream year for me. It seemed like every time I tried to create change and opportunities for myself, doors kept slamming shut. I felt so incredibly stuck. The overwhelming heat of the Oklahoma summer was my breaking point. I had enough. I was hot, exhausted, and so not happy. I noticed how hard I was paddling upstream, and I was ready to try something different.
So I focused my energy on new things. I created a vision board of what I really did want in my life. I wrote a description for the life I wanted to live and taped it to my mirror. Although sometimes painful to see how different this was compared to my current lifestyle, I trusted that all good things were coming. Step by step.
Although reluctant, I loosened my grip on my oars. I stopped trying so damned hard to force things to change. I started to flow downstream. I trusted that changes were on the horizon, maybe not according to the time frame I was hoping for, but change was coming. I could feel it.
Once my husband and I set the intention to start our family, I became pregnant within two months. Once we set a serious intention that we would like to move, my husband literally got a call out of the blue from a stranger, offering him a job he couldn’t refuse.
And now here we are in Portland. It seems that everything is falling into place, just like the vision boards and vision statement I created for myself months ago. We couldn’t have planned this better if we tried. It just happened, step by step, in a very simple no-drama, no-fuss sort of way. And I know that this all came together because I simply stopped to notice how hard I was pushing, forcing, and struggling to make things work. And how exhausting it felt. How it felt like suffering. And friends, we didn’t come here to suffer.
Let me say that again, we didn’t come here to suffer. We came here to play, to create, and to enjoy life.
So, I stopped. I got quiet. I got really present with what I truly wanted in my life. And I asked for it. I meditated on it. I envisioned it. And most importantly, I trusted that it would happen. And now I know it’s possible.
What’s possible for you?