Our lives are like flowing rivers: When we try to control their course, we merely flail about until we’re swept under waters that are heavy with silt, which is the toxic residue of our psychological and karmic wounding. Having no idea how to clean the silt up, we drink it in, and it chokes us — leaving us thirsting for a clean, clear stream to help us thrive.
We fight the current, yet we never clean the river. That is, we continue to attract people and situations that mirror our toxicity. We find that the angrier we are, the more we have to be angry about. The more abandoned we feel, the more we’re attracted to others who abandon those they care about.
Unfortunately, none of our struggling helps us in the slightest. We’re eventually left with nothing living in our river: no dreams, no hopes, no love, no passion, and no self-respect. And our waters don’t bring life to anything on our shores, so the end result is a dead zone around us where nothing flourishes.
It’s time to recognize the origin of those polluting elements and shut off the source.
Western psychology tells us that we have to install sewage-treatment plants and filtration systems to make our water drinkable once again. For the Earthkeepers, nothing could be further from the truth: They believe that the river cleans itself once we start feeding it crystalline water rather than pumping poisons into it. Then we can go with the flow wherever it takes us, trusting that the river knows what the best destination for us is. Once our waters flow clean, we don’t have to search for our destiny; it’s been there all along, waiting for us to turn our river into a stream of nourishment and passion.
When you start pouring beauty into your river, you’ll find that the waters become clearer every day. For example, the people who used to push your buttons will drift away. When you meet someone who would have irritated you in the past, you’ll feel no desire to engage in battle with them. Likewise, you’ll lose interest in venting and be unmotivated to whip up anger or outrage. Circumstances that you once found overwhelmingly depressing or infuriating will simply become situations. You won’t judge them as good or bad, empowering or crippling, because you’ll know that facts are always in a state of flux, even when it looks as if they’re static. You’ll remember that your life will arrange itself to mirror your healthy, unpolluted condition.
To practice beauty, you must give up the ugly stories where someone is a victim and someone else is the perpetrator. You must stop seeing the world through gray-smudged glasses, declaring that everyone and everything is coming up short of your expectations. You have to let go of cynicism and apathy and find hope and possibility in all people and situations.
This is especially hard to do in a culture that greatly values clever expressions of cynicism and declares that ugliness is truth, and the truth is ugly. Talk show hosts, political pundits, and snide bloggers all revel in their ability to expose the “truth” about how no one can be trusted, there’s nothing to believe in, and all of our heroes are actually fools and frauds. Soon we find ourselves thinking this way, too, finding conspiracies everywhere. Believing in beauty starts to seem naïve and childish rather than wise and refreshingly childlike. Our river becomes so thick with stories about good guys and bad guys that we can’t see the bottom for all the muck.
Practicing beauty means recognizing what is pure and of value in every situation and every person. It means that even when your neighbor has done you a terrible wrong and is full of venom, you still love him as you love yourself, for you see in him the potential for being a better person, and the part that was once a loving child. (You may have to squint very, very hard to discover such beauty amidst the ugliness, but it is always there, in any human.) You may have to guard yourself from your neighbor until such time as he’s able to see that beauty in himself and begin acting in a beautiful way. Nevertheless, the moment you choose to see beauty is the moment you empower yourself to rise above the ugliness and let go of the stories that are clogging your river.
You can learn more about how to escape your nightmares, clean up your river and dream a new world into being in my book, Courageous Dreaming.