Sitting by the River, surrounded by the beauty and magic of Oak Creek Canyon, in Sedona AZ, has been one of the most enduring Joys of my 92 years of life. Great TRUTHS about life, the movement of our days, with the decisions and attitudes that create either great happiness and peace, or else fill our days with despair, anger and stress, have come to me from that river and how it relates to time… flowing even as the river flows.
I have dated this essay the 17th of July, the day I entered the world 92 years ago in Stephenville, Texas, (called “The Cowboy Capital of the World”, due to so many of the National Rodeo Champions who live there). I have chosen that date on purpose. WHY? Because I consider this subject one of the most important of ALL my subjects of the last 40 years. We live today in a culture and society filled with human beings living with daily stress, anxiety, frustrations, confusion over values, shallow relationships and the chaos created in the mind and emotions of so many personal lives.
I share with you, now, the answers that have come to me through “time and the river flowing”. In that river is the essence and heart of the time proven philosophies of Zen and Taoism revealed with every moment of time and every new change of the river’s flow… as it moves around obstacles and creates its own path, and beauty of a smooth flow.
The mightiest river keeps to its bed. It flows where it finds openings between cliffs and rocks. SO IT IS WITH THE FLOW OF OUR LIVES. Once the fixed objects of our lives shift, our circumstances change. Life is the FLOW OF ENERGY. It is the air we breathe, the force that moves the weather; it keeps the rivers flowing, our hearts beating and the sky blue. This FLOW of energy moves constantly according to the fixed points that exist at any given moment. If the boulders are moved… even a river will change its flow.
Of all the world’s great mystical systems, it is Taoism, the earliest knowledge tradition of China that has preserved most subtly. The Tao is the transcendent womb out of which all things are born. “Going with the flow” with the image of the river flowing, around obstacles, effortless, with no strain and no pain, is central to the image of a life lived effortless, without stress or anxiety.
”Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them… that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like” …said Lao-Tzu, the Old Master of Taoism.
No matter how much structure we create in our lives, no matter how many good habits we build, there will ALWAYS be things that we cannot control, and if we let them, these things can be a huge source of anger, stress and frustration.
Learning to FLOW as the river, going around obstacles to form a new river bed, can change your life, even if you are in a daily routine loaded with stress. When I lived in Idaho, the CEO of the BONNEVILLE POWER ADMINISTRATION lived in the same town. He and I had breakfast together about once a week to discuss the great truths of Taoism. He said it changed his life… cleared away his daily stress and brought tranquility and balance into his days. I have had business executives tell me the same thing from Kansas City, to Tacoma, Washington and Boise, Idaho.
FLOWING is just mandatory when things do not go as we had planned, or want them to go, or find our lives disrupted.
“FLOW with whatever is happening and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. Flow around the boulder… this is the ultimate.” -Chuang Tzu
We cannot control the universe. You cannot even control people and events within your own little sphere of influence. You may influence a little but the vast majority of events and people that affect our lives… you cannot control. You will either flow around the obstacle or live with anger, frustration and stress. There are many in our society whom I call “control freaks.” They want to control everything and everyone. They live in a fantasy world thinking that their judgments and opinions are superior to all others.
The world, as we know it, is ceaseless change. It is becoming. “Nothing is secure,” wrote Emerson. There is only creativity. “God is a verb, and not a noun,” wrote Buckminster Fuller. Things are what they are for no reason. To call them “good” or “bad” only reflects the mind that calls them so.
As with animal and birds and flowers, man finds FREEDOM in being what he is by Nature. Free men of this type are like strangers among us. Wrote Lao-Tzu, in old China they were called “sages” or….”the perfectly natural man”.
From that small river in Oak Creek Canyon, for many of my 92 years has come profound and life saving TRUTHS… ”FLOW… FLOW around boulders and obstacles… and stay on your own natural river bed… your “true self” (as the Lakota phrase it)… and so make your contribution to the creativity of the natural world… to other lives who, in harmony, understand it.
There is only… TIME… AND THE RIVER FLOWING…