In a particular period of my life, on more than one occasion, I was exhausted – running around, tripping over myself in an effort to be helpful. I’m conscientious and willing to work hard, but at the end of each day, I had a gnawing feeling that something was out of whack.
From my spiritual searching and practices over the years, I felt the path out of this bind involved gaining new insight, a perspective that would help me see beyond and break through this pattern. Then, I had an opportunity to join a group of women in Abby Seixas’ Deep River telecourse, based on her book, Finding the Deep River Within: A Woman’s Guide to Recovering Balance and Meaning in Everyday Life.
As Abby points out, the “Deep River” can have different meanings for people. It wasn’t a new concept for me. Since childhood, the Biblical “still small voice” has been real. Over the years, I’ve read and learned from a variety of other timeless spiritual writings and teachings. I feel especially at home with the ideas in Mary Baker Eddy’s work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, where this spiritual reformer explores the deep divinity within us and the practical effects on our daily lives of spiritually understanding our relationship to the Divine. For me, the Deep River was a symbol of the divine presence that is all around and within, embracing me – and everyone – in love and wisdom, uplifting and guiding.
During the course, the women spoke heart to heart about some of our struggles. One woman mentioned a tendency to overextend herself. Overextend! That word spoke to me, with an awakening force. Another woman talked about discovering a hidden motive to gain appreciation. Was I feeling unworthy and in need of validation?
We shared insights and experiences that encouraged us to take time to get quiet in order to find the Deep River within, to feel one with the divine presence. I decided right then to make every effort to pause – to be still and listen to the inner voice, the voice that tells me who I really am and what I have to offer – before charging ahead and overextending myself again. It hasn’t been easy, during the course or since then, but I am making progress!
Here’s one example.
A new friend who just moved to town from another country was hosting dinner for a few neighbors. I wanted to bring a gift and thought, “What about a box of See’s Candies?” See’s is a traditional California treat that would be really special.
Then I realized it would take me an hour and a half’s drive to make the round trip to the candy store, and that I had other commitments, including the promise to myself to live at a calmer pace in order to allow moments for thought to be open to the Divine. I felt an inner tug: push ahead as I’ve often done; or stop and listen as I was committing myself to do now. I decided to take a Deep River moment. I became quiet. I listened. I started to pray, something like this: “Let me feel the divine presence here, loving me and loving my friend. Let me feel and trust how much we are both cared for, nourished, supported by infinite Love.”
I stopped planning and just took in this love! My concerns began to dissipate: I wasn’t personally responsible to make my friend happy; and proving myself a good neighbor wasn’t the point at all. We were both truly worthy and loved. Like a swimmer in the ocean who is carried to shore by a powerful wave, I felt the power of love bringing me to a joyful solution for both my friend and me.
Soon, an idea came to mind. A bakery collective that’s unique to our town, and which I like to support, makes delicious cookies. The store is reflective of local color and only a few blocks’ walk from my home! A shop across from the bakery offers a selection of specialty ice cream flavors, too.
I called my friend to see if I could bring dessert, but she said she didn’t want to trouble me. When I told her about the bakery around the corner, she was delighted and said, “Yes!” After a delicious dinner, the cookies were snatched up eagerly, along with refills of ice cream.
What I loved about this experience was seeing that I didn’t have to rush around trying to be the perfect neighbor. It wasn’t about ME! In that Deep River moment – when I paused to feel my oneness with the loving presence of the Divine – it became clear that I wanted to share with my friend and our neighbors what THEY would enjoy. And the way opened to give generously that blessed ALL of us.