The days after Christmas and before New Year’s Eve have been a special time for me as long as I can remember. It’s a quiet time—from the subtle solstice shift, the peace after Christmas, the lower temperatures that limit late night revelers. There’s a hush that falls over my neighborhood like a blanket of snow.
And in this quiet time, I choose to reflect on where I’ve been and where I want to be next. To measure my life and see if I’m okay with how things are going, or if there’s something I want to change to have a different experience. If there’s any unfinished business, this is a time to bring it to an end so I can move on.
But this year that ritual will be different—not as much to change— because all year long I have practiced “releasing” and “receiving” as part of my daily walks on the River Trail.
When I come to the pedestrian bridge, I head straight to the center on the down-river side. Watching the river flow around boulders, I quietly call up whatever isn’t working anymore, and release it to the river like mentally cutting the tether on a little boat.
Sometimes it’s my stuff. Sometimes it’s from others. Maybe it’s a material thing. Or a thought or feeling or behavior or belief. Sometimes it’s a relationship. Whatever isn’t working for me is released with love to the river.
When there’s nothing else to release, I move to the upriver side and take in the awesome power of that water rushing towards me. I silently express my gratitude for all that is coming to me now—now that there’s empty space in my life to receive it. I breathe it all in—new experiences, ideas, feelings, people, places, things, beliefs. When I am full, I add, “this or something better for the Highest good of all concerned.”
Now I’m free to watch the ducks.
My greatest teachers this past year have been the Mallard ducks who frequent the Animas. The “River of Lost Souls” is appropriately named, because it’s where I practice releasing and receiving, it’s where my spiritual teachers, the ducks, reside, and it’s where people like me come to hang out with them.
Ducks seem to live in the present moment, naturally. It took me more than twenty years to get an understanding of that concept, to get even a taste of what it’s really like.
Ducks are unconcerned what anyone else might be doing, so completely focused on whatever they themselves are doing—fishing, grooming, playing, parenting.
Sometimes they float elegantly, so totally in the Tao that they are carried to the next place for feeding– as if by surrendering to the flow, they are rewarded with duck abundance.
Sometimes they gracefully swim upstream, even with the current raging against them.
Other times, butts in the air, they feed on goodies under water, completely oblivious to people who stop to watch—as if it’s none of their business what others think of them.
They don’t waste time making meaningless noises, but they do communicate efficiently when it’s important—just enough to get the job done. No more, no less.
They aren’t bothered by others who aren’t exactly like them, but will hang out right alongside geese, other kinds of ducks, even those silly little birds that dive in the icy water. There’s an unspoken agreement to live and let live.
I’ve never seen a duck fight over food or anything else in all my years of watching.
If someone needs a nap, that’s cool. I can almost hear them say, “Go ahead. Tuck your head under your wing, dude. I’ll stand watch.”
The ducks are always in pairs. I wonder if they mate for life. I know the geese do. I always feel a little sad about knowing that—not only because they will be alone if their mate is killed—because their lifetime commitment to their mate, by contrast, seems to spotlight our human difficulties in intimate relationships.
Ducks always seem to be at peace. Whatever is, Is. They don’t seem to worry or fret. If an enemy appears, they simply move on. I like to think their quacking is not only a warning to their friends, but also a comment about the rude disruptor. But that’s just me. Obviously, I haven’t yet learned everything my teachers have to share with me.
But I didn’t learn about releasing and receiving from ducks. This idea showed itself to me the first time in that passage on seasons in Ecclesiastes when I was about eight years old—“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” (3:1). It announced itself again, subtly, in yoga class when we learned to watch our breath come in and go out as one way to meditate.
Then someone sent me this article about relationships, “A Reason, A Season, A Lifetime:”
People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. When you know which one it is, you know exactly what to do.
When someone is in your life for a REASON, it is usually to meet a need you have expressed. They have come to assist you through a difficulty, to provide you with guidance and support, to aid you physically, emotionally or spiritually. They may seem like a godsend and they are. They are there for the reason you need them to be. Then, without any wrongdoing on your part or at an inconvenient time, this person will say or do something to bring the relationship to an end. Sometimes they die. Sometimes they walk away. Sometimes they act up and force you to take a stand. What we must realize is that our need has been met, our desire fulfilled, their work is done. The prayer you sent up has been answered and now it is time to move on.
When people come into your life for a SEASON, it is because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They may bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.
LIFETIME relationships teach you lifetime lessons, those things you must build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. Your job is to accept the lesson, love the person/people (anyway) and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships and areas of your life. It is said that love is blind but friendship is clairvoyant. Thank you for being a part of my life. (© Brian Andrew “Drew” Chalker)
Remembering this rather profound perspective of relationships has helped me deal with the people in my life as I practice releasing and receiving, because I no longer expect people to stay around forever. Now I regard them as interesting butterflies who fly into my life—for a reason, a season, or to teach me something—and I can let them go when the time comes.
In this quiet time before the New Year, I hope that you find your own happy balance with releasing and receiving and that your New Year is the best ever!