October 2, 2013

Reflections on the Flood: Riding Life’s Deep Waters. ~ Sarah Hollingsead

image from pixoto

The souls of our bones are steeped in the places we call “home.”

Wherever we find ourselves, we root our hearts. In the land, in the walls, in the foundations and in the relationships we have with our neighbors and friends, we plant our life and we water our expectations around permanence, safety, stability and most important of all, comfort.

For the past year, I’ve been nourishing the garden of my life in Lyons, Colorado, in a sweet little landscape called Apple Valley Road.

There, I’ve only had the chance to ride the St. Vrain River once as she was, before deciding to change course. My first and only run came in June 2013, just days after my experience of saying goodbye to a second short-lived pregnancy. I found myself at the banks with my neighbors John and Sally King and their home, “The Riverhouse.”

Whatever I may have looked like on the outside, inside my body and heart were flooded with fear, uncertainty and— loveliest of them all—rage. The remnants of what was, what could have been and what wasn’t bound itself tightly around my heart and the waters of my personal pain rose higher with each breath. There was a storm brewing inside me.

The day I found out my first pregnancy was in my left Fallopian tube and had to be “removed,” I lost all sense of security in what is. I found myself thrust into the desolate landscape of not knowing what’s happening now, let alone what’s happening next. In the moments of deciding how to “dissolve” my pregnancy, I found myself holding to the edge of life, wanting for some kind of ground to stand on and finding none. My sense of security and stability in all I thought I knew to be true was literally washed away.

On the edge of the King’s home that day, Sally and I dipped our toes in the river and despite its cooling effect, I could feel my resistance rising. In some kind of way I wanted to hold onto the fear, I wasn’t ready to let go yet again. I didn’t even know what letting go meant, let alone how to do it.

Whatever John may have seen or known, I can’t be sure, but the invitation came. “Sally and Sarah, its time to run the river.”

He offered to drive us to the end of Apple Valley and drop us in for my premier launch. After weeding through the initial resistance, we were convinced and suddenly I found myself riding down a different stream, one marked by trust and “yes.”

That’s how things shift: one instant, one invitation, one run down the river.

It was the best ride of my life. In the time it took to paddle from the end of Apple Valley back to the Riverhouse, I found my breath again. As Sally guided me downstream, I felt into the intricate balance of effort in paddling and ease in simply allowing the river to carry us.

In yoga we talk about “being in the flow,” on the river there is no talk—there is simply the essence of that experience, unfolding in every moment.

It made me wonder if this wasn’t also true off the river, in my life.

To know this flavor of being in my body invited my head and heart to land in the true nature of reality. All is flow, all is flux, all is impermanent. In every paddle and turn, the river revealed deeper and deeper layers of this truth. You can’t fight the river, you can only ride. More than that, there is nothing to fight, there is only the current that carries you. We are always held in just the right balance, even when the ride feels rough and unknown.

When I came out of surgery after the tubal pregnancy was removed, the first thing I heard was “good news, we saved your tube!” And my first thought was, “There’s no good news unless I have my baby.”

There I was with my life and yet that wasn’t enough. What I didn’t understand in that moment—what I didn’t understand until I watched my town of Lyons start to flood—is that the current of death and destruction is always happening here and now. It’s just one turn away from the current of life and resurrection that’s also always happening here and now.

What we don’t know is that every instant is a transformation. When we step into it, we can see it, taste it, feel it and—even better—we can actually be it. But when we hold onto the edges, we are blind and we get knocked around by our own insistence on keeping our life clean, clear and comfortable. We hit rocks and we knock ourselves out trying to resist the tide.

Life isn’t comfy, it isn’t cozy. It is a wild ride down a powerful river, so powerful that it will eventually take us all from form to formlessness. Every moment is a turn toward this truth or away from it. The good news is we have the power to navigate our way through the stream, as long as we commit to the current of surrender, releasing our expectations around what should be and feeling into what its like to simply allow our path to unfold.

When I talked to Sally about The Riverhouse after the flood, she told me the St.Vrain was unrecognizable, she was no longer a River but a Dragon, whipping and whirling her way around town, roaring and spitting fire in the form of water as she carved her way through land, road and those sacred spaces we call “home.”

According to the Chinese Zodiac, we are living in the year of the snake. The night before my tubal pregnancy was discovered, I dreamt of snakes crawling all over me and I was bleeding. When I awoke, I called the doctor and requested an early ultrasound for the third time, which I was finally granted.

The snakes saved my life. Not the surgery—the snakes.

One of the oldest and most widespread mythological symbols, the serpent or snake represents the energies of creation and destruction. With the ability to shed skin and rebirth itself time and again, the snake embodies the essence of transformation. This creature came in for me as an invitation not just to shed the layers of my life I was clinging to, but also to more importantly reveal the layers of my life I was hiding from.

What is the Dragon if not a supernatural snake with the capacity to reveal evermore hidden layers of reality? What if Lyons has not been washed away or flooded? What if its been cleansed and now we are just beginning to step into the field of transformation that awaits us all?

What if, like John, the River somehow knows we need to experience letting go as the only way of knowing letting go?

The river has decided to change course and our only choice is to follow her lead. For whatever wisdom she holds around the need to cut us open, she holds as much wisdom around what wants to move into these empty spaces. We are in deep waters now but we’re in one boat, riding downstream together.

Flood or dry land, none of us are exempt from the mighty river run we experience as our life.


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Edited by: Ben Neal

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Sarah Hollingsead