Life Lessons from the Mighty Mississippi
Thoughts on Flow
This month I’ve been thinking about FLOW. Our family enjoyed a sailing trip and time along the Mississippi River early this month. Plus, it’s National Yoga Month! This idea of flow – graceful movement, harmony with wind & water, body & breath, a way of staying in balance – is a frequent intention for me.
As someone who likes calendars, plans, to do lists and goals, life’s ever-changing current can be challenging. I’d like to float but sometimes my instinct is to fight. Go with the flow is a spiritual challenge but it sure feels good when I can let go and enjoy the ride!
Come Sail Away
Our sailing trip started at the Lake City Marina and Yacht Club on a pleasantly cloudy, blue sky day with just the right amount of wind. We sailed Lake Pepin, the largest lake in the Mississippi River and the birthplace of water-skiing! On this September day, though, it was all sailboats and seagulls!
I was a little “nervous-cited” (a term our daughter Zola uses to describe that particular combination of fear and anticipation that causes butterflies-in-the-stomach); I’d never really been sailing before…
There were white caps on the lake. Maybe it was a little too windy? And, why do the sailboats always appear to be on the verge of tipping over?
I had no need to worry. Captain Harry was calm, confident and charming with thirty years of experience sailing Lake Pepin. When I asked him about the dramatic lean of the boat (heeling), he coolly informed me that I didn’t need to be concerned until the sails were actually touching the water.
He also explained what I couldn’t see beneath the water – a deep keel that counter-balances the force of the wind on the sails. Ahhh…
“Our Lady”, a 32′ ketch, sailed smoothly along through constantly shifting winds and changing conditions. Under the calm guidance of Captain Harry, and with small adjustments to sail positions, the boat stayed the course, moving steadily and without upset or drama (much to my relief).
It reminded me of the concept of Equanimity in yoga. It’s a type of balance and resilience that is a primary goal of yoga practice, an ability to maintain inner calm and peace in the face of life’s difficulties. In other words, no matter what life throws at you, yoga is meant to help you stay even keel:
Whatever chaos might be swirling around us, equanimity allows us to stand in the middle with a steadiness of mind and a compassionate heart, holding joy and sorrow in perfect balance.– Judy Bierma, Living Yoga: 6 Steps for Equanimity in Your Yoga Practice (link below)
Like a River
The river itself is a perfect metaphor for the ever-changing flow of life. It, too, works best when in balance. The banks hold a certain amount of water. Too much and the river floods. Too little and there’s not enough movement. The current carries some things along and leaves others behind. Too much holding on causes blockage and stops the flow.
I like Lake Pepin, the lake within the river. The lake is really a natural reservoir, a holding place. Except that this is not stagnant water – it keeps passing through, following the Mississippi current to the Gulf of Mexico.
It goes with the flow.
I loved sailing. The thing that struck me first, after we’d entered the lake, raised the sails and turned off the motor was the quiet. I felt immediately relaxed by the subtle sounds of the wind in the sails and the lapping waves. No motors to interrupt the reverie. Not even the splash of paddles!
Sailing had a different feeling than any other boat ride I’ve been on. It was a feeling of harmony, least effort and working with the wind and water instead of striving against these natural forces. It felt like breath and movement, opening to the sky and letting life happen in the moment.
The sailing trip was a Christmas gift from Brad’s sister (Thanks, Michelle!). We are all for sharing new adventures and this was a perfect experience for the four of us to anticipate and enjoy together. So much better than “stuff”. If you’re looking for experience gifts, she used a great company called Cloud 9 Living that provides services in cities all over the U.S. (link below).
Flow Playlist: Songs for September
Rock on with your bad self! You’ll need a free Spotify account to listen.
Judy Bierma. “Living Yoga: 6 Steps for Equanimity In Your Yoga Practice“.