A River Runs Through Us | Catherine Shainberg, Ph.D.

We enter the New Year having come out of the longest night of the year. But true to the gift kept alive in Pandora’s box, our hearts are filled with hope as we ritualized what we trusted would happen: light’s return. We lit candles for the Menorah, for the Christmas tree, for all the feasts of light around the world. Our trust was affirmed: Light has returned. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us a far greater miracle is occurring, unseen, unsung, uncelebrated. From the mysterious nothingness, Genesis tells us, a great river rises to nourish Eden and its trees.

This river flows with bounty and brings to life the two great trees at the center of the eternal garden, the Tree of the Knowledge and the Tree of Life. The first feeds our consciousness-choice, the choice between good and evil; the other feeds our endlessly creative vibrancy and power. Would the world, the myriad species and us humans be alive and evolving without this mysterious river and its far-reaching trees?

The nameless river, we are told, cascades down into the manifest world, dividing into four rivers, watering the four corners of the earth and, we can surmise, the four elements, the four races, our four limbs – all while flowing unobtrusively throughout the known universe. Without even our awareness, without our help, it waters our world, bringing it to life, upholding its dynamic unfolding.

Bathed at every moment with life giving waters, thriving because of this great river, we are being created anew at every moment because the river runs through us.

Does this mean that, thanks to this river, we are connected to and entwined with all other forms of creation? If nothing else we can wonder at the mystery of the aliveness we inhabit and are a part of. We may even be moved by this gratuitous gift of life and consciousness. What if gratefulness pushes us to want to respond?

Here is an exercise to experience the River of Life.

Breathe out three times slowly, counting from 3 to 1.

Turn your eyes inward, asking to be shown the river that sustains you and all the worlds.

Breathe out. See and feel how it connects you and all other forms of life.

Breathe out. Experience that when you become aware of this river flowing through all forms of life, the garden of Eden ceases being a distant memory. It is here and now.

Breathe out. Open your eyes, seeing this with open eyes.

By turning your eyes inward to the river, you are igniting it into greater life, vitality and light. All the created forms perk up. This is more than just the ritual of lighting candles. This is re-ignition and re-connection to the essential Light of Creation. By adding your intent and strength to God’s work, you are co-creating with God a better, brighter, livelier world. You are returning the Garden to Now whose name – Eden – means pleasure, the pleasure of creator and created delighting together in igniting lights and reenergizing forms.

Happy New Year to you all. May the River of Life run through our families and our community of dreamers, igniting dreams for the good in 2023. May we participate in returning the world to its playful and vital state.

by Catherine Shainberg