The Swamp and The River

The river is alive and moving because of its banks vs the swamp which we think of as dead, which isn’t entirely true. Do our boundaries be it moral or social, help constrain us and therefore to some degree free us?”

A friend had sent my blog, Freedom Isn’t Free, to someone he knows who had written back to ask the above question.

Their question brought to mind images of swamps and rivers, of muddy waters and smooth, clear sailing. Of flowing effortlessly or slugging it out in the tangled debris rotting away beneath the waters.

What is real? What is assumed? What is movable? What is stagnant?

In my thinking it is all there, all apparent, all present. All times.

It’s where I put my focus that makes the difference.

If the past is the swamp how do I clear it? Or, do I need to be afraid of it in the first place — isn’t the desire to ‘clear it’ part of my fear? What if… like a swamp that plays an evolutionary role in the cycle of life, what is present in the swamp is necessary to be alive in the waters of life flowing today?

When a thought or belief or feeling or memory that no longer serves me falls into the swamp, is its role to become a part of the evolutionary process. Part of the cycle of life that feeds the millions of microbes and microcosms alive beneath the waters. The swamp, like the river, are both necessary for life on earth. Are they both necessary and essential in me?

Perhaps these questions are too deep to ponder this cloudy Vancouver morning as I sit alone in the coffee shop down the street from my daughter’s apartment, the coffee shop I’ve come to each of the past three mornings to write and read and at times just to sit and watch the people and the world around me.

Or, perhaps I tell myself they’re too deep because I don’t really have an answer and I don’t like not having an answer so my habitual response is a la Scarlett O’Hara, I’ll think about that tomorrow.

I don’t like looking stupid. I don’t like not having the answers when asked a question — which, when you think about it, doesn’t make sense. How can I have the answer to every question. HOw do I learn new things if I don’t explore the answer to things I don’t know?

See, that’s the murky waters of the swamp. The past habitual patterns that once upon a time I devised to keep me safe while navigating the river and its many tributaries of my life.

And perhaps, that is the answer.

The river is always flowing. In the river are the morals and values I live by. The social constructs designed to ‘keep me safe’, yet, when left unexamined, fall into decay, become the swamp that would keep me stuck in the murky depths of living on automatic, living from fear, being afraid of looking beneath the surface. Afraid of beauty and the beast.

It isn’t the banks of the river that keep me safe, or free. It is that as I learn to swim in its life-giving waters, I become one with the course of time digging out the edges, widening the banks, carving new pathways, new eddies and backwaters, always swimming towards the call of the invitation of the wide open sea. And always challenging what I know to be true. Or not.

When we live from a place where the river = love and hold the consciousness of the evolutionary impulse to always create better as our contribution to this human journey we share, then we are always flowing in Love — and the swamp too is Love, it just represents the parts we no longer need to carry along with us if we are to be free to enjoy the waters of life in which we flow without fearing what lies in the swamp, what swim beneath the surface, what lies beyond the banks.

So, at this moment in time, my answer to the question is — Yes. No. Maybe. Sometimes. Always. We are the river and the swamp. We are free to be and become all that is life on earth. All is necessary. All is essential. How we do one thing is how we do all things. Everything is connected. We are all connected. And in our connections, we are part of the evolutionary journey of life — a journey best taken in Love.

And, PS — I’m free to change my mind tomorrow if my thinking deepens, or if I don’t like my answer! 🙂

18 thoughts on “The Swamp and The River

  1. Louise, I am feeling overwhelmed this cosy, snowy Sunday morning as I explore my morning meditations. I am SO THANKFUL that I was lead to you. You help me greet each day with inspiring words. I am also grateful to have found the Abbey of the Arts through you. I felt a creative awakening this morning as I read Christine’s first sharings after a short sabbatical. I feel as though your creative gifts play a part in the blessing I was moved to write today. I feel empowered to share it here after reading your post this am. I will offer the no longer needed pieces of my past to the swamp and continue to enjoy my journey in the river.


    May you be present to hear the whisperings of your soul;
    Encouraged and empowered to continue on your journey of awakening,
    Accepting what is, and lovingly letting go.

    Hugs to you,


    • Colleen, I love your sharing and feel honored to be along loud journey and cherish your presence in mine. That’s the beauty of the river of life… We’re all in it together. Sometimes we swim in synchronized wonder, sometimes, alone and always we are connected through the waters of life.


  2. So freedom needs boundaries to move us along through life, but we need the ability to leave those boundaries when something in the current flow is taking us in the wrong direction… Off to the swamp to get rid it! And does the flow of the river then change for us as we alter the rules of the flow that was previously guiding us? Wow! You’re right on one thing … Who know if this is right! 🙂


    • Lol, so True Ian. The river is our construct and as such we change the temperature, depth and flow of the water to sustain us, and to be sustained by! It’s all in our perspective and we’ve each got our unique perspective.


  3. I found this interesting but you know I can’t think of a single thing to say that would sound insightful or even witty or funny…………….so I am just saying I read it I like it but have nothing in way of a decent comment……………..


    • Hi Joanne… So I’m sitting at the airport waiting for my flight and just wrote you a des ae and it disappeared!

      I find your perspective refreshing and always enlightening especially as you bring such a grounded view of life. Thank you my friend!


    • Tee hee Diana – some of my greatest challenges have been created because I told myself I knew the answers! Haha. I truly am so funny. It isn’t the answers that make the difference. It’s my willingness to look at every situation -and the questions they being- as an opportunity to learn.


  4. I wonder if freedom at its most basic level is choice? If that we’re to be true, my current set of experiences tends to lead me to believe that an unlimited set of choices (no boundaries) does not set up the parameters for choice. To choose I need comparison and constraint Vs unlimited possibilities. And so on the most basic of levels, freedom requires boundaries. Having said that maybe nirvana is not freedom, but rather love


    • Ahhh — I love the concept of nirvana being love. What I read in your comment is that boundaries are the parameters we use to define and confine our choices — and we are always free to choose differently. But, when we choose to contravene our own boundaries, we’re not free, we’re living by someone else’s rules.

      A deep subject! thanks for commenting Andrew. It’s nice to meet you here.


  5. When my husband left me I had this feeling that it was like being thrown into a river and being swept along by its current without me having any power over it so my whole control had been taken away from me.

    Your thoughts in seeing a river a different way with its life-giving waters puts a more positive slant on the same metaphor ….
    and being thrown in, one just has to get going and learn how to swim! 🙂


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