Anam Chara - The Flow of Life

I am deeply drawn to the above Irish Blessing.

This blessing works for me on very many levels. It includes many words I love. These are the words "listen, "river" and "trout." Two of these words, "listen" and "river" bring me into the present. The other evokes memories of the past. This blessing helps me become a presence and an evoker. I am able to evoke memory.

I have called this blessing "The Blessing of Flow." This is the nearest metaphor I have to explaining the essence of what it means to live in being and to be fully alive. This symbol of a river is a great image to represent the flow of life. It is a metaphor I evoke often in order to remind me that "I am" is flow.

I live close to a river.

This is the river Shannon in Ireland. I live close to the source of this river. I live close to where she rises up from deep underground at a place called "The Shannon Pot." This is a deep still place. At this place the water is dark peaty brown. It is a barren place. It is a place of silence. It is a place where one comes to listen. It is a place of rising up and a place where one might be lifted up.

To listen to the sound of a river is an act of presence. You have to be there with this flow of energy that has no beginning or end. You have to be with this metaphor of freedom of emotional expression. You have to be there as one who is sensing and sensational. Just sitting or standing one looks at this flow of life. Water is life and we are mostly water. One is reminded that one is simply a flow of energy. This is the flow of an eternal energy.

This Irish Blessing reminds me of the great Zen saying, "The river flows and the grass grows by itself." Such a beautiful and profound saying. I find all sorts of meaning in this saying. It is a saying that I love to relax into. The deeper I relax into this saying the deeper I go into allowing it to touch this soul.

This is a great Irish Blessing.

An Irish Buddha could almost have spoken it. It is a calling to be present. To catch a trout you have to be present. You have to be able to listen to the river. You have to be able to read the rhythm and the dance of the river. If you are not present to the river you miss. You have to know the river and then you will know that which lives in the river.

I spent many years between the ages of ten to twenty fishing and reading rivers around my home in the City of Armagh. I would lose all track of time. I would be happy alone on the bank of the Callen river. This would be day or night when I would go seeking that illusive trout. As time went on I learned to know the river. I learned its rhythms. I let the stillness and the meditative silence of being there enter my heart.

Many great teachers have loved rivers.

This Blessing uses the image of a trout as a metaphor for a living energy that lives in flow. I think this trout is a representation of soul. It lives in the essentialness of the flow of the Divine. When you listen, and this means you have to be silent, you will catch. You will catch a glimpse. This is a glimpse of the free flowing being you are.

Great teachers have spent time sitting beside rivrs learning to allow wisdom to arise. One of my most recent teachers via the written word is Anthony de Mello. I am presently reading his wonderful book "Walking on Water." This seems to be an appropriate title for the reflection on this Irish Blessing. This book is subtitled, "Reaching God in our time

I love a story that Anthony de Mello tells in this wonderful book "Walking on water." Let me share this story with you.

"A wise old boatman was taking pilgrims to a shrine. One day someone asked him," Have you been to the shrine?" "No, not yet," said the boatman, "because I still haven't discovered everything the river has to offer me. In this river I find wisdom;, I find peace; I find God." But the pilgrims didn't even notice the river, their minds were so focused on the shrine they couldn't see the river."

This is wisdom. This boatman must be a being of love. He is not yet interested in the shrine. A shrine means "a place for books." Too often these books become places where we practice not flow but fundamentalism. This means we take the "fun" out of the religious experience and become "mental." We reverse the process of living. Life becomes not an experience of being but a practice according to a set of rules and commandments. The shrine becomes a dead thing rather than the living water of life.

I love to imagine this boatman of the river.

He would be so alive. He is not a person of social authority. He is a being of authenticity. He will row the pilgrims to the shrine in silence. He will be listening. He will be out in this boat in all the elements. He is an elemental being. He is a being of essentialness. He or she is humble. He has still much to learn. He is not yet ready to go to the shrine. He is not yet ready to go to "the chest of books."

I suspect he never will go to the shrine. One day he will disappear. He will disappear as did the maiden Sionann who gives her name to the river Shannon. He will not become one who is a pilgrim. He will not be one to whom flow becomes foreign experience.

This boatman will live between two shores much of his life.

These are the shores of the visible and invisible worlds. For him the river will never be in any one moment the same. He will live and love this river. He makes his livelihood from this work of being on the river. I suspect he loves this work. This river is his teacher. He knows the joy of wisdom simply by listening to her flow. He is a pupil of the Divine. He is a receiver of the grace of the feminine.

This boatman is a presence. He is sitting rowing pilgrims toward "a chest of books." They will debate the content of these books - these pilgrims, these foreigners (root of the word pilgrim is from the Latin "periginus" meaning "foreign"). The Pilgrims in this story appear to be great logic choppers. They are not ready for entering the river. This is the place of flow without beginning or end.

Life is not contained in a chest. Try and contain it in the boundary of a book and it becomes foreign. It becomes a foreign body. If you are intelligent you will begin to smell something fishy. Something begins not to smell so sweet. There is the smell of something not totally alive.

If you are lucky you will have the "inner telling sense" to leave the shrine. You will walk to the river. You might come across a boatman. You might even meet with the real kings of the river. You might meet with Jesus, Buddha or Mohammad sitting silently listening to the river. They are each listening in their own way. Just sitting silently they know the river flows and the grass grows by itself.

They know this is forever enough.

© Tony Cuckson 2004

Tony Cuckson is an Anam Cara. This Celtic term means "Soul Friend." He specializes in providing insight for the spiritual journey, Blessings for YOU, words of wisdom and finding inner peace. Visitors to Irish Blessings Matter website and Tony's Blog get the opportunity to develop a purpose driven life through articles, newsletters and other programs.

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