River Wisdom & Working from the Flow


“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children.”  
-rainer maria rilke

Water is Winter's element, giving to our lives flow.

When we experience true flow, we're in union with our emotional selves and missions, and we more readily experience the creative/ spiritual/ professional breakthroughs needed to move our journeys along. 

Like an exquisite wave, the Flow state of mind is like surfing inside the wave's barrel, and the barrel is our present moment. Each wave, each moment is paradoxically soft yet requires laser sharp focus, completely unique yet universal- containing infinite possibility. 

Water asks us to accept that there will be periodic floods, freezing, mudslides and even pollution. But she also teaches us to keep watch and clean up, thaw out, slow down, clear pathways, so that we can once again be liberated in our pursuits, whatever they may be, and ensure that our most precious resource is preserved and kept wild. 

In a culture that largely disregards the important, directive power of emotions, and seems bent on fear/exotisization of the dark, it's no surprise our waters are suffering. Water pleads with us to lean into our emotional wisdom, then choose our state of mind wisely, to face fear's headwaters so we can get clear enough to know how to proceed.

Water asks us to be flexible and patient, clever and malleable, especially when we're out to solve a problem or seed a new idea. But when the time comes, she asks us to surge forth without hesitation. To rush faithfully around and through and over anything that stifles or stagnates.

River wisdom can teach us profound lessons of flow, perhaps more than any other body of water. Try this exercise to more deeply connect with what is or isn't flowing for you emotionally, professionally, physically or spiritually at this time. Spend time by rivers. Ask them for solutions; ask them to teach you about flow...

River Wisdom Exercise


I. Find a comfortable place to lay down on your back (or anyway that is most comfortable).

II. Take several long, deep breaths. With each in-breath, imagine that a wave is receding back out. With each out breath, imagine the wave rushing the shore. Work with your breath slowly. Repeat this until you feel very relaxed.

III. In your mind’s eye, begin to visualize a river. First, see yourself there at the river’s edge. When you’re ready, enter the river in whatever way seems best to you. Let go and trust that you will stay above the water and will not crash into anything.

IV. Begin to recognize this river as your life’s current right now. The rio abajo rio*... the river beneath the river of your everyday life at this time.

V. As you flow down the river, begin to notice things. What’s the weather like? What’s in the way? What shape are the banks in? Is there a place that is dammed or flowing too fast? The river will wait for you to take some time discovering the waters of your life.

VI. Notice ahead naturally your ocean destination. Find yourself delivered gently onto the beach. What do you see before you? Can you see BOTH the positives and negatives of where your river has brought you?

VII. Slowly come back into the space you are in, in your mind. Once back here, open your eyes. Write everything you can remember down immediately.

This can be an emotional exercise. You may want to put on a relaxing track that lasts about 10 minutes. When the track ends, it's time to see the ocean ahead and move towards ending your visualization.

*from Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, PhD's seminal work, Women Who Run With the Wolves
**Read more about the research and science of the flow state.

photo 1: pine watt at unsplash, photo 2: kalen emsely