You Can't Push The River

May 5, 2012

"You Can't Push The River"


I’ve never tried to pull a caterpillar out of its cocoon, hoping to catch an early glimpse of the butterfly.

I don’t recall ever ripping open the closed bud of a spring flower, desperate to experience its full bloom glory. I do, however, sometimes eat raw cookie dough before I bake the cookie. But if I always did that, I would never experience the sweet succulent warmth of crispy melting chocolate-flavored heaven swarming my taste-buds and rocking my entire being with orgasmic waves of sensual bliss … and I do love a good cookie.

Anyway, I know the caterpillar must emerge in its own time for her wings to be fully formed. I know that flower is under a contract with the universe for which I can only be a steward, guiding with proper nutrients, ensuring access to sunlight. I cannot force the fulfillment of that contract before its time by drowning it in water and chemicals. And, I know that cookie … well, if cookie dough were truly better than the actual cookie, there would never have been cookies. Just cookie dough.

Despite knowing better, it’s amazing how often I force my will on life all around me, ripping open cocoons and flower buds, pushing things to happen before their time. Even when life clearly reveals that my will is not the driving factor – and I’m noticing more and more it’s pretty much never the driving factor – I’ll throw my will around as if I know what’s best for the Uni-verse.

It’s wise not to push the river, Bryan,” said Bob Duggan, a TEDx Speaker and founder of Tai Sophia Healing Institute in Maryland, to me years ago as I worked feverishly to make an event happen at his school.

Although there was little actual support from his staff, I believed I had something profound to offer with that event, and I wasn’t genuinely willing to consider objections. What I had, I was convinced the world needed.

Long story short, that event didn’t come off.

Nor did the lesson.

[dt_quote type=”blockquote” font_size=”big” animation=”none” background=”plain”]Countless times since, I have worked myself into frenzies of all shapes and varieties, in moments large and small, to make something happen that just didn’t seem to have the full support of the Uni-verse.[/dt_quote]

Sometimes whatever I was forcing along actually did happen, at least technically. But my forceful approach often left a wake of resentment and disconnection, sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious, between me and the world around me that hadn’t been part of my original vision.

It was as if the cookie got baked, but the higher oven temperature I used, combined with compromises I made to hasten mixing the batter, left me with a burnt, crunchy mound that tasted like a dry sugar biscuit. Despite not one orgasmic spasm in the tasting, I would figure next time I just need to crank the temperature up a bit higher, shorten the mixing time even more … and definitely add extra sugar.

Result? Ever sweeter, charred stones of flour that began to chip my teeth.

Blessedly, a few challenging experiences have begun really bringing this lesson home.

About 6 months ago I crossed the subtle line from simply offering my talents and skills to pushing them on someone.

It was an opportunity for which I had an incredible amount of enthusiasm and excitement. But instead of allowing the moment to unfold naturally at its own inspired pace, I grabbed scissors and started poking at the cocoon, impatient to drag the butterfly out and set her flying!

Well, that butterfly never flew. The holes I poked leaked the nutrients she apparently needed for her wings to grow. I was deeply disheartened when I saw what I had done, but it was the perfect, bittersweet lesson. (no butterflies were harmed in the making of this metaphor).

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, indeed.

The very same recent morning that lesson landed, I was about to crank up the temperature on another critical project because I wasn’t convinced things were happening at the pace I wanted them to happen.

Fortunately, as I saw myself reach for my phone to make the call, I noticed an ominous anxiety wrapping itself around me. I stopped. I allowed myself to breath. I then told myself I had already performed my role in allowing the cocoon to form and the nutrients to be delivered. Now it was time to hold a safe space and protect the cocoon, not harass the caterpillar.

Later that same evening, I received the most divine gift as the butterfly began to emerge under her own power, winking playfully at me. She’s still emerging as I write this (in the actual form of a song being written for a powerful upcoming event). I confess I’m still a bit nervous. Something in my thinking demands she be born by next Tuesday. I can literally feel the compulsive movement in my body to hasten the process.

But as I realize that it’s just not true, that she doesn’t have to be born by next Tuesday; that the world won’t stop spinning and no one will genuinely love me less, even if she never emerges, I’m able to relax into my body and breath and simply be here … right where I am, right now, allowing these words to pour forth from the authentic, deliciously sweet depths of my own true heart, the same as your heart, in which there exists a profound love and enthusiasm for life no matter what actually happens.

[dt_quote type=”blockquote” font_size=”big” animation=”none” background=”plain”]This belief, that what I want to happen simply must happen … for the world to be at peace, function efficiently, spin, be round, be fun, be easy, be safe, love me, protect me, entertain me, etc. … it’s just a lie.

As I really allow this to sink in, I can literally feel my body, my thoughts, relaxing into an experience of causeless joy that Benedictine Monk, David Steindl-Rast, described as “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”[/dt_quote]

I could go on and on with such tales as I’ve described here. I see clearly how this lie pervades my life; how it pervades humanity, in fact.

This phenomenon is at play everywhere, in our daily lives and in the larger world around us. The degraded quality and endangering of our food supply is a direct result of our collective insistence that food grow faster, cheaper, and in greater quantities. When was the last time you ate a truly orgasmic tomato from the grocery store? They don’t come that way anymore. They’re plucked before they are ripe.

The trashing of our oceans and rivers is a direct result of our wanting to urgently experience prosperity, with far less care for whether product life cycles are in harmony with the whole.

And we routinely damage our relationships when our partner doesn’t do what we want him or her to do.

We’re so busy trying to rip open the bud to hurry and enjoy the flower’s fragrance and wild beauty that we completely miss the beauty and wondrous miracle of the life-holding bud itself.

Where are you insisting life serve you the cookie before it’s fully baked?


"You Can't Push The River"



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  • Beautiful thoughts, Bryan. I have been thinking about this concept of balancing my own powerful will with the divine Uni-Versal "contract" lately. I've gone over the fantasy of how I want my story to be played out. I have even manifested the beginnings of that story. And then I realize that I, myself am not ready, even though I see my goal clearly and all the confirmations from the Uni-Verse seem to shower down upon me like a refreshing spring morning. Still, I find that I have to stop myself knowing the timing is just not right. And when I do, when I'm patient I begin to truly look around and listen to what the Uni-Verse is telling me. It's difficult to do when what I see before me is something (or someone) I want to experience In its full beauty. But, no matter how desperate i may feel to burst out of the cocoon NOW and fly freely in beauty and love, I understand the wisdom and protection of patience! The balance of my own Will and the Will of the Divine is where the real orgasmic experiences of life are!

  • It just seems to be deeply true that we are simply not in control of anything at all. Not even our bodies. Not even our thoughts. Certainly not what happens in the world outside us. As my artist, Ash Ruiz, recently told me, "we are not here to get what we want, or have success in music, or make lots of money, or win every game we play … we are here to wake up." That seems to be the truth of it. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Anonymous : )

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