The sun is shining and we’re trying not to equate every warming beam with impending global climate catastrophe. Flowers are in bloom. The world is good, right? Excellent. So you’re in the perfect place to go on a little imaginative journey. This is something that sprang into my mind during my second Ayahuasca ceremony in Spain this January. I’ve not written too much about the experiences at that retreat because the messages were chaotic. There was no clear narrative to hang the whole thing on to, and I imagine even the most tolerant of you would lose patience with endless descriptions of snakes in manacles and screaming chickens (I know, I know, I need to become vegetarian. I’ll get to it, I promise).
Despite the confusing barrage of ideas and images, a few little snippets stood out and I want to share one of them. This is a neat little analogy and I’ve found it useful in recent weeks as I try to come to terms with my future. Here’s how it goes:
Life’s journey is a river, I was told. For reasons unexplained, we need to travel upstream as we progress through life. Downstream would be easier, but it doesn’t work like that. You might want to spend a moment now to create a river of your own imagining. Mine is something you’d find in the Pacific Northwest of the USA, or Canada. Clear, energetic, reflecting a blue sky mottled with high clouds. Punctuated with rocks, but not a rapid. Low, green grass grows to the edge of a narrow shale beach on either bank. Tiny white flowers speckle these meadows, which extend about twenty metres from the water before reaching the first trees of a thick, ancient forest. I can’t see into the forest, but it’s peaceful and unthreatening.
Got your river? The Thames, the Nile, the Amazon at its widest? Just a little stream? Good. So, each of us must navigate our own river and to do so, we are all given a boat. Excellent, you might think. Just what I need. But there’s a catch. The boat is made of Lego. On the plus side, no-one can take our Lego away from us. It is ours and will remain ours throughout our lives. You can’t lose pieces under the sofa, or tread on rogue corners hidden in the shag pile.
Back in Spain, as I stood looking upriver, I felt woefully ill-equipped to tackle the water with my silly Lego boat. But I stepped into its sharp hull and began to paddle. It’s life, you’ve got very little choice but to live it.
It’s tiring, paddling a Lego boat against the river’s flow, but I was making steady progress. I pushed on, until I spotted a wide clearing on the left bank of the river where the meadow stretched a little further into the trees than elsewhere. I felt an urge to stop and rest, so I manoeuvred to the bank and pulled my boat ashore. And here the purpose of the Lego boat became obvious. I could dismantle my boat and build whatever I needed in the meadow. I can’t precisely recall what the first building was – a little house, I think – I’m only guessing. And after a little while, I was ready to move on, so I took apart the house and rebuilt my boat. Back into the river I went, paddling onwards until another clearing caught my eye. I stopped again, deconstructed my boat and built again.
And so the pattern repeated. Each time, I could stay on the bank for as long as I wanted. When I was ready to move on, I rebuilt my boat and continued my journey. The revelation here took me longer to grasp than it should have (I was on pretty serious psychedelics, in my defence), but when I did, it felt quietly profound, the way the most useful revelations often are. This is what I learned and what you may want to take away from my experience:
The places we rest in our lives – jobs, relationships, physical locations – they are of our own making. We have the bricks to build them and the ability to take them apart when we’re ready to move on. We don’t journey through life stopping at existing locations, meeting people who wait for us in pre-ordained places. To take an example from my life, I spent years training to be a lawyer. At the time, it felt like I arrived at law school, then the law firm, and when it didn’t work out, I left the whole experience behind. Wasted it. But of course I didn’t. I simply packed up the law firm, turned it back into my boat and moved on to the next resting place. If you feel (as I did, routinely) that you’ve missed your chance in life, that you’re drifting away from something you regret leaving behind, then don’t. You carry all of the constituent parts of that experience with you. Build it again, if you must. Or wait, and build something better. And if you’re unhappy where you are, take your construction apart (smash it if you want), rebuild your boat, and paddle to a better place.
If you can see life this way, then you’ll never have a sense of being stuck, or of missing the boat. You are the boat (put that on a t-shirt!). Experiences, success, love, peace, happiness – none of this is in your past. You’re surrounded by it. It’s carrying you forward through life. When the right clearing reveals itself, you can rebuild that feeling. Just step out of the boat. All the bricks you need are there. Nothing is in your past and nothing is in your future. Everything is here, right now and all the time.
And the best thing is, you get better at this with age. You start building wobbly houses and end up with the Millennium Falcon. Or a dragon. Or a ski chalet. Whatever you want! Lego is great, right? Enjoy your journey.