There’s a great story in Richard Bach’s book, ‘Illusions’, about a village of creatures who lived along the bottom of a great crystal river. The currents swept over them, whilst they clung hard to the rocks on the river bed. Clinging was all they knew. But one of these creatures decided to break free, as he was bored of clinging on endlessly, and the others thought him insane. When he let go, he was tossed by the currents onto the rocks, but this creature held his nerve, and was eventually buoyed to the surface. He claimed to the others, “The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go”, and with that he flowed to a new adventure.
When we hold on tightly to old ideas and ways of living that no longer serve a purpose in helping us to grow, when we fear letting go and taking a risk, we shut ourselves off from so much that life has to offer. A new way of living is possible if we’re willing to cast off our old ways.
When my husband Nigel passed away, it was winter and for weeks after his death, I wrapped myself up in a grey pashmina shawl. Somehow it became my shroud, a kind of comfort blanket I couldn’t be without.
Almost a year after he died, I sat on the banks of the River Thames, the same river that took his life, with the shawl in my hands. I knew it was time to let it go. I pondered the significance. Casting that shawl into the river meant letting go of a part of my grieving process, a layer I was ready to shed. I was releasing my perceived protective layer between myself and life. I was making the statement that I was ready once more to open up fully to living life.
The river was waiting. As I threw it in and watched it float away, I smiled, breathing a sigh of relief. I felt a sense of excitement at what was to come now I had let it go.
Almost immediately after I had thrown the shawl into the water, a seagull swooped to the surface of the river and flew high up into the air. I wondered if that was Nigel’s spirit flying free, feeling the release that I felt in that moment.
Aristotle famously said nature abhors a vacuum, and in casting off the old, we open to something new. But it takes us letting go, and that takes courage.
As we are in the season of Spring, what will you cast off today so that shoots of new life can grow? What new beginnings will you allow into your life? What needs to be pruned and cut away, so that you can blossom in all your glory?
Remember the courage of the river creature – in the face of disapproval from his own kind, he followed his heart and opened to the moon.