Saturday, April 16, 2016

Navigating the holy river of life

Enter flow - don't waste time on denial, resistance and anger because life isn't what you thought it to be.
~ Dr. Shefali


An ice-cold emerald green river in the sweltering heat of an Indian summer day. Pristine white sands laced with sparkling silver (minerals?) at the water's edge. Ancient river stones worn smooth through the ages in pastel colours of mauve, pink, marble in addition to the black and grey. Majestic hills rising on either side of the winding river.

Into this picturesque scene we took our bright little raft, and got our safety training. We are a relatively small group of 3 adults (including the instructor) and 2 older children. My 8 year old was allowed to accompany us for the first 4 km including a level one rapid. The training includes matter of fact tips on what to do if the raft capsizes. We are given to understand that maintaining a certain speed in rowing through certain parts of a rapid will allow the raft to "skate" over the tumultuous water and not capsize. We pile in holding our paddles with a death grip and perch on our respective edges of the raft. We are embarking on a 20 km stretch of white water rafting with 14 rapids en route, from the gentle grade I to the churning chaos of grade IV - including Marine Drive (Grade II), Sweet Sixteen (Grade I), Cross Fire (Grade III), Roller Coaster (Grade IV), Three Blind Mice (Grade III), Golf Course (Grade IV) etc. The instructor invites us to jump in the river before we approach the rapids and most of us do so - me mainly because I preferred to get in on my own than be tossed in happenstance; besides, who in their right minds would miss out on a dip in the Ganga?

The gentler rapids are fun, and we are given commands to row forward and stop as we practice pulling with our upper body and not just the arms. Then the higher grade rapids happen, and we row for dear life, simply doing what we need to do in complete present moment awareness as we spin and tilt amidst the whirling waters. I notice how there is a burst of thought while heading towards a big rapid ("this is a play of form, just a play of form"...then lapsing into repeating the names of God over and over!) and immediately after finishing the rapid, laughter and exhilaration, "That was amazing!" And we ply the guide with questions on the name and grade of the next rapid. The irrepressible young British boy in the raft seems to find pleasure in declaring with relish, "The next one is where we all die!"

The guide invites everyone to jump into the river for a rippling part of the stretch known as "Body Surfing", where you hold onto to the lifeline of the raft and get pulled along through the river for half a mile. It's bliss when you allow yourself to relax, lean back into the water and watch the sky as you glide through the smooth coolness of the sacred green river.

During the grade IV rapids, the spray stings and blinds my eyes as I row amidst the plunging mountain-valley-whirlpool of roaring white water all around, and I learn to not let fear widen my eyes on the next rapid. I notice how navigating a rapid almost feels like riding a bicycle - all I need to do is balance my body lightly on my little perch at the edge of the raft as it dips and spins crazily through the thundering river.

It feels well to enter flow, face the unknown and accept uncertainty. It feels right to be rowing for dear life or simply balancing through a rapid so at one with the moment that being and doing coalesce in a period of no-mind. It feels like this heightened experience offers a taste of being what we were born to be. Fearless, unattached, non-grasping, open, flowing, free. One with life.

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