Many years ago I was in a raft on the Colorado River deep in the heart of the Grand Canyon.
My nervous hands clenched a thin rope as we glided into the top of Crystal rapid (one of the big ones), and a fraction of a moment later I was deep underwater, holding nothing as my body hurtled through churning, wild water and rocks. The power of the water was tremendous, holding me down with a force I can still feel in my bones.
At some point I finally popped up, took a quick breath, then was pulled back down, and it was like that for awhile. Up and down and around, experiencing nothing but water and power.
And then there was the moment I popped up and saw something else: the overturned raft and Katherine, our guide.
I’ll never forget her wonderful face shouting and her arms motioning for me to “swim!”
How could I swim?
I started to pull my humble arms through the sucking down and pulling power of the water, and little by little I began to move through and out of serious danger. Finally I could see all of the others in our group along the river bank making the dramatic arm motions of “Swim!”
Eventually the swim got easier, the downward force less frequent and our incredible guides got Katherine and me and the others out and safe. It was a life experience, and an experience of being with others, that my body and mind still process to this day.
I thought to share this story when I was considering an article on why we emphasize connection and community at Grow Well. Now that I’ve written it, I see a few other ways to explore, too.
Life is a little river-like, right? I won’t sing you a song about it today, but I’ll mention that I often meet people who feel caught in a powerful life flow that doesn’t give them the health, happiness or peace they desire. Others feel caught in the rapids, held down by pain or difficult circumstances, struggling. Still others are hitting rocks and other barriers, trying to find a way to smooth out the journey somehow.
Any of these conditions can leave us feeling powerless and weary.
So much of my work and training is about noticing the endlessly available ways we can interrupt the natural and hurried flow of life to simply come up for air. A moment of air, in the river or not, is remarkably powerful.
When you experience a moment of breath, you are entirely alive for that moment.
When you experience a moment of breath, you can see something from a new perspective.
When you experience a moment of breath, you can begin to move.
Interrupt and breathe… try it right now and maybe you’ll see what I’m talking about.
I wonder if Katherine saved my life that day. She might have. Her presence, and eventually the presence of others, opened my experience in ways that were so important.
I knew I was not alone. Katherine was out there, too. It helps for us to know this in life, too. It helps to open our hearts to the others who face similar challenges, to feel their hearts open to us.
I believed for a moment that I was not powerless. By hearing Katherine’s simple suggestion to swim, I began to believe that maybe my arms could move against the force of the water.
I heard an idea I that I wanted to try. It wasn’t occurring to me to swim. Hearing the suggestion mattered. Whether from a guide or from a peer in a similar struggle, when we are with others, we can see ideas, inspirations or new perspectives on how to move through difficulty or find new peace.
Support, encouragement and shared commitment. Once I saw the pantomime swimmers along the shore, I knew that I would be okay. All the people on the trip were pulling for me, breathing with me, swimming with me, believing with me. I see this often in our online community opportunities, or in our small groups gathered around topics like eating and healthy living.
It’s beautiful to receive, it’s beautiful to witness, it’s beautiful to give.
May we find sweet ways to ride these waters, friends.
If you’d like to explore the power of online community to support your everyday wellbeing, join our free Mindful Wellness Practice Community on Facebook.