I don’t know who God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking.
Whenever the water struck a stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.

I’d been to the river before, a few times.
Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through all the traffic, the ambition.

Section I of The River Clarion by Mary Oliver

The practice of Centering Prayer or meditation enables us to hear the river talking.

When we sit (on the cushion, as the pros say) we are practising emptying, making space for something else – something other than our thoughts about the past, fantasies and agendas about the future – something other than the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves . . . this has been wonderfully described as the Netflix in our heads.

Cynthia Bourgeault describes this activity as “letting go, making space, unclenching – thought by thought by thought.”

This capacity for letting go while meditating is transferable to our day to day living, off the cushion. We find we are more able to let go of strong feelings in the moment, make space to attend to what is actually going on and unclench when we want to tense up and guard our ground! This is the gift and purpose of meditation in the vibrant flow of human community . . we are more available for Love to happen.

The Christian tradition has given me a story about Love as well as clarity about Love being the Big Adventure of being human. The wisdom, primarily from Eastern traditions, around meditation and contemplation have shown me how compassion is possible within the biological, psychological and spiritual limitations and capacities of being human.

Another gift of meditation is how it increases our capacity to be part of vibrant flow of our relationship with the Earth. We can hear things we haven’t heard before like the river talking; see things we’ve never noticed. All the senses are awake in a new way, perhaps like when we fall in love!


 I tried to create a space between my ears,

 for the sound of the wind.

 Briefly I felt like a leaf.

 Every kilojoule focused on something I can’t see,

 but that will come in power.

 Poised and listening.

 Waiting to be moved.

Sarah Arthurs,
I would be remiss, given that this blog was brought to us by rivers, in not mentioning World Rivers Day, September 27.
See this Tyee article, You should never give up on any river!