Several people have requested the full text of the Row, Row, Row talk, so here it is. I left the words for the guided imagery in at the end because I think one can benefit just by reading the words. I hope you enjoy it!
My hope for this talk is to help you understand the differences between giving up, throwing in the towel, trying to jam that square peg in that round hole, quitting, turning it over to God, acquiescing, trying to force change, or surrendering.
I’m going to use a lot of analogies because I think painting pictures with words helps us grasp concepts and put them into action in our own lives. So please take the ones you like and leave the rest.
The primary one I’m going to be using is rowing our boats gently down life’s stream.
Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.
Let’s see what this has to teach us…
Row, row, row: Action is required… and consistent, repeated action is most valuable.
We can’t just sit and wait for God to do the work.
As my dad says, God helps those who help themselves…
How many of you are “burst and fade” kinds of people? By that I mean you get these bursts of creativity and energy and get a ton accomplished, then you go dormant and nothing gets done. Then another burst hits, and then you fade again.
Truly it’s better to be the tortoise than the hare. Steady, daily action is a wise approach to accomplishing everything you want to accomplish. Just do something, no matter how small, daily and watch the magic happen.
Think about riding a bicycle. The process alternates between pedaling and coasting –coasting is the reward for pedaling, but you have to have a balance of both. If all you do is pedal, you soon exhaust yourself. And what happens if you coast all the time? You fall over, literally getting nowhere!
Row, Row, Row, Your Boat: not another’s boat, not your mother-in-law’s boat, not your kid’s boat, not your co-workers’ boats, but your own boat.
Many of us spend a lot of time running others’ lives, taking their inventories, telling them how they ought to be doing things.
“You really should…” “I don’t think that’s a good idea…” Wagging our fingers the whole time.
There’s a wonderful lesson taught in AA about finger-pointing. If you are pointing your finger at another, how many fingers are pointing back at you? Better to tidy up your own life than try to do so with others.
So I want to give you a definition of soulmate. A soulmate is not the person who can complete your sentences. It’s not the person who gazes adoringly at you. Your soulmate is the person who irritates the snot out of you, drives you crazy, pisses you off. Why? Because this person is present to show you where you haven’t healed yet, what is unfinished business in your life. If someone gets to you, it’s wise to explore that area of you life and determine what healing is still needed.
So our goal is to paddle our boat to the best of our ability and allow others to paddle their boat even if we don’t like how they’re choosing to do it.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat Gently: NOT paddle furiously, not slapping at the water, then giving up…GENTLY… so what does gently mean?…
It means cutting yourself some slack when you’ve made a mistake or been less than perfect. God did not intend for “Perfect” and “Human” to go together in the same sentence!
God intended for us to be fallible, to make mistakes, to hopefully learn from those mistakes, grow, and move forward, so be GENTLE with yourself and others as we fumble through life.
Be willing to take risks, knowing that you’re likely to fail. Again, failure is the primary way we learn and grow.
I think God made us all a little off of plumb on purpose. Not only because it’s fun to watch, but because it helps us learn when we’re making mistakes and being imperfect.
Think about a baby learning to walk. Babies spend more time on their butts than they do on their feet. Do they give up when they fall over? No, they just keep trying again and again, until they get it down. What would happen if the first time a baby fell, he or she said “Well! I’m not EVER doing that again!!”
Row, Row, Row Your Boat Gently Down: there’s an inherent flow to your life the same as the river flowing in its bed. Typically when a river flows out of its bed, it’s not a good thing!
We have a path, a trajectory God wants us to be on. When we lose track of that, which can happen often with all the noise in our world that blocks out the still, inner guidance system God has given us, we are wise to take time to quiet ourselves and our world so we can hear the guidance.
We are also wise NOT to try to get back to where we were upstream. What’s upstream? The past. Old beliefs that no longer serve you. You end up fighting the current and wearing yourself out trying to get back to something that has outlived its usefulness. Humans don’t do backward well; we’re meant to go forward.
People are not static, we are dynamic, ever-changing, even though we balk at change…
Row, row, row your boat gently down The Stream: Your life is the stream.
The flow of life will take you where you’re meant to go.
You assist by paddling to stay clear of the rocks in your life river.
There are times you can rest your paddle in your lap and enjoy the scenery around you.
There are times you have to work a little harder to stay off the rocks. Regardless, the flow takes you with it.
What’s most important here is TRUSTING the flow. Trusting that God has the Divine Plan and all of our little plans are good, but God has the big picture and what doesn’t make any sense right now may make a ton of sense down the river a ways…
So what are the differences between fighting the flow, surrendering to the flow, and giving up?
I think a lot of people are very confused by surrender.
To me, surrender means working WITH the river, with the flow of your life.
Fighting it means trying to change where it flows naturally, trying to paddle back upstream where you’re really not intended to go.
Giving up means throwing your paddle into the water and jumping in and drowning.
Surrender means realizing the river has a lot of power you want to work with, not against.
Another analogy would be those moving sidewalks at airports. What happens when you try to walk against the direction of the sidewalk? It takes MORE effort to get where you’re going. What happens if you walk with the direction the sidewalk is going? You begin to move faster than you would if you were simply walking along beside the moving sidewalk. The forward motion of you, added to the forward motion of the sidewalk, moves you ahead more swiftly.
Surrender means turning it over to God, saying “Ok, God. I’m sure you have a great plan for me even if I can’t see it yet. Give me some guidance in following you where you want me to go.”
You still choose to go, but you are allowing God to make the journey easier with divine guidance.
So let me share a cheesy thing I do for myself or with clients when there’s confusion about what direction to go in life or what decision to make about something. I call it The Next 3 Things exercise. The gist is you pose your question to God, then go pay attention to the next 3 things that stand out for you. It could be a song on the radio, a bumper sticker, what someone says.
For example, I had a woman client who was trying to decide if she should stay in her marriage or leave her husband for a man in New York City whom she’d met online. I had her do The Next 3 Things exercise when she left the session and about 20 minutes later she called me and said, “You’re NOT going to believe this! I just saw a billboard that says ‘Live, Work, and Play in Wisconsin'”
Surrender means trusting in God’s plan.
So now let’s talk about your boat in relation to other peoples’ boats!
Cuz we’re not in the river alone, ya know!
Everyone else is in their boat, either paddling furiously up or downstream, hanging on and screaming at the top of their lungs, jumping out of their boats, playing bumper boats with those around them, or rowing gently down the stream and assisting others to do the same.
What do we want from those in the boats around us?
When the water gets choppy and the rocks are threatening, a steadying hand from another person in a nearby boat increases the stability and balance of both boats.
Note that word, balance. In life, this means giving AND receiving. How many of you are great givers? How many of you are great receivers? How many of you are lousy receivers? Many of us are really great givers, but we stink at receiving!
Let’s try something right now. I want you to think about breathing. Every breath we inhale is us receiving. Every breath we exhale is us giving. So let’s see what happens when we give, give, give. I want you to exhale…and exhale again…and again…do you get the point? This is intended to be a reciprocal action…inhaling and exhaling. The same with giving and receiving. We maximize our success by both giving and receiving AND taking care of ourselves so we can be of assistance to others.
There is nothing enlightened about being a martyr. Giving, giving, giving and never allowing yourself to receive means you are out of balance and not serving God’s intentions for you as well as you could.
And the same way you get pleasure from giving, you allow others to have pleasure in giving to you, so be a good receiver. Practice just saying “thank you”, not “oh, I can’t accept that” or “you shouldn’t have”. “Thank you” or “I appreciate that”.
So how do you know if you are being a martyr? Exhaustion, resentment and anger are usually signs of martyrdom.
Don’t squelch those feelings! Listen to them. God gave us the capacity to feel those feelings to guide us in regulating our lives. Embrace them.
Feelings in and of themselves aren’t bad; what we DO with the feelings is what matters.
If I’m angry and I blow someone’s hair back, not good. If I’m angry and I set firm boundaries with someone, yay, me! How many of you heard the recent story of the 19-year-old clerk at I think it was DQ? He was serving a visually impaired man who accidently dropped a $20 bill on the ground. The woman behind him picked up the bill and pocketed it. The clerk asked her to give the bill back to the man. She ignored him. He again politely asked her. She refused. He then politely asked her to leave his store. He was respectful in addressing her, but unwilling to tolerate poor behavior on her part.
So back to the boats around us. What do we do when someone we love is in a boat near us, but refuses to paddle?
I believe we don’t do them or ourselves any favors by towing their boats along through life.
If someone is unable to paddle for a while due to illness, injury, exhaustion, a rough spell, absolutely we can tow them along for a bit as they do their healing work.
But if someone is capable of paddling and chooses not to, we need to be strong enough and healthy enough and loving enough to set them free to travel in their own boat…
How about those who are clearly expert at paddling their boats?
It’s a joy to watch how skillfully they move their boats down their life’s river. These are the people who are our mentors, teachers, guides. We learn by observing them, then trying it ourselves. Keep your eyes open for those who skillfully move through life…
I think that’s a lot to think about, so let’s do a little activity designed to help all of this integrate into your mind, body, and spirit and leave you feeling excited about rowing your boat down your life’s stream.
Guided imagery: I’m going to borrow a piece from the CD you all received, then I’m going to add some imagery about our river to it.
So let’s begin by closing your eyes and focusing on your breathing… breathing deeply and easily, with your abdomen rising and falling and your chest barely moving at all.
And that may feel a little strange to begin with, but just keep breathing and it will become easier.
Breathing so your abdomen rises and falls and your chest barely moves.
Breathing in to the count of 4 and breathing out to the count of 4. In, 2, 3, 4…and out, 2, 3, 4. In, 2, 3, 4. Out, 2, 3, 4.
Every breath you inhale, imagine healing, energizing golden light being drawn into your body wherever feels natural to you. Every breath you exhale, imagine releasing any thoughts, feelings, memories, beliefs that no longer serve you.
Releasing them out through your body wherever feels natural to you and turning them over to God for transformation.
We know from physics that energy is neither created, nor destroyed, it’s merely transformed. So we’re asking God to transform any negative energy we harbor into positive energy to be released into the world.
Just keep breathing in and out… In, 2, 3, 4. Out, 2, 3, 4.
As you breathe in, I’d like you to hear the word “energize” and as you breathe out, the word “release”. Energize, release…
Now I’d like you to imagine a beautiful river. The river of life. And you’re in your boat, with your paddle, flowing along with the river.
Notice how it feels to dip your paddle in the water and assist your boat in moving forward…
Notice how it feels when you dig your paddle in a little harder…
and then a little softer…
Lift your head up and look at the scenery passing by….Tune in your ears so you can enjoy the sounds around you…birds singing…breeze blowing in the trees. Smell the fresh scents of the water and the trees.
Now I want you to imagine the water beginning to move you through rocks that stick up from the river bed.
And you need to use your paddle a little more skillfully to keep your boat away from the rocks.
Those rocks represent the difficult times we experience in life: losses, upsets, betrayals.
Notice how when you use your paddle to work with the water, it is easier to get past the rocks…
Now I want you to imagine moving past the rocks and beginning to be around other boats with their people in them.
Notice how others choose to manage their boats.
Notice the people who fight against the current…how tired they are.
Notice the people who use their paddles to keep others’ boats away from their own…perhaps they don’t trust.
Notice the people who work in concert with their fellow travelers…floating along with them, encouraging another’s paddling, pointing out rocks here and there.
…let’s not forget the Merrily, merrily, merrily part of the song. Life is meant to be a joyful process.
Yes, there’s grief and sadness, but there’s also the opportunity for great joy.
Look around you and truly notice all the beauty out there as you float along: the trees, the birds, the people, the sunshine…
and I’d like you to take a deep breath in to draw this energy into your heart and soul.
And one last thing before I bring you back to the present, I’d like you to look ahead down the river of your life and imagine it with joy and love in your heart. Feel the excitement and anticipation as you look forward to the next lengths of your journey.
God’s river will take you where you are meant to go, with you assisting by paddling, until your journey here is completed and you return to the divine, loving presence…
Ok, now at the count of 5, I’d like you to be wide-awake, refreshed, and alert, bringing with you the best feelings from your journey down the river of your life thus far. Coming up at the count of 5…coming up 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…all the way up.
In closing, I’d like to ask you to spend a little time pondering your life river and where the flow is taking you.
Ask yourself how well you’re working with the flow to move yourself even further forward.
Make a few adjustments to your paddling and see what the impact is on your forward movement.
Embrace those who are on the journey with you.
Above all, enjoy the beautiful view as it passes by as you row your boat gently down the stream…