River of Light – A Homecoming

by | Conscious Living, Print Articles, Thought Leaders, Winter 2024

The Wilderness Within  By Steve Hurt

There is no love affair greater than the love between a river and a mountain. Theirs is the closest of all unions. In their sojourn from mountain to ocean their love lights the world with fertility and wild greenery. A love like this lasts a lifetime. The river has a wild mind and it says to the wild earth: “Show me the way home.” And as the river journeys homewards to the ocean it sings, celebrating its merging union with the furthest shores.

Witnessing this love in the river is an act of remembrance that takes us back to the sacred source, where the primordial nature of life is present. This source of creation is a vital wellspring of renewal, an ever-present stream of unfolding life that cascades into the world in every moment and permeates all of creation. It is this source I was seeking when I went to sit at the river on this day:

I am sitting in the forest at a bend in the river where the canopy has opened. The sun streams down on this fertile nook of dappled green forest floor and the river tumbles over steppingstones into a still pool below. Even amid this endlessly busy soundscape of a sentient forest, there is a stillness and peace in the air. Here in the heart of the forest my entire somatic existence is permeated by the endless chatter of the non-human world; the birds sing, the wind whistles in the leaves and the river sings with uninterrupted joy as it makes its way to the lagoon.

Listen to that trickling sound of water tumbling and dancing over the river stones. The sound is mesmerising. It pulls on the inside of your stomach and subdues a restless mind. I came here for a deeper reason today, looking to connect to the sacred voice of this river, to connect with the spirit of this living being. I had seen the spirit of this river before in a meditation a few years back, quite by surprise, a nature deva. It felt like time to go back to her and to see if there was a possibility of speaking to her.

I make myself comfortable, sinking into the riverbank’s lush fernery. Take one deep breath and exhale. Focus on just one breath at a time. The in-breath, the out-breath. Slowly the busy mind is drawn into the heart and the volume turns down, the voice is more still. Here I am, feeling the oneness of the body of the earth. The oneness of our shared body. There is a remembrance between us, a familiarity, like my mother’s hands feel on my cheek.

It is the voice of the river I seek, so I allow the sound of the river to envelop me. I feel the sounds in the air like a soft blanket pulled over me, slipping deeper inside, into a zinging, humming inner spaciousness. By now I have buried myself in the riverbank, covered my body with ferns, hidden myself from sight, merged into the forest cathedral of this living landscape. “This is that place,” I think to myself. It’s a timeless place inside, a familiar place of shared biology, shared flesh. Even the couple walking the isolated trail don’t see me when they stop at the bridge to stare into the river below. I feel as if I have become invisible, absorbed by the place. The sounds of the forest and the river become me, the tendrils of the ferns extend from the ground and into the air where they cover my body, as though holding me closer to the ground I will return to one day. Yes, one day soon these ferns will consume my ashes and draw me back into the fertile depths of the earth so that all sense of ‘I’ will be gone forever. And then it strikes me that this river, this forest scene, somehow exists inside me. With my eyes closed and my body cradled in the greenery, I have a palpable sense that all of this exists inside me, literally in the dark and fertile depths of my self. It seems so obvious in this moment, unquestionably true, like a mystery revealed to my forgetful self.

How easily I forget this place inside me, where the river is already present, where all the forest is continuously unfolding from inside me. This eternal place whence consciousness spills forth. And oh, how beautifully the river remembers this continuously.

The sounds of the river have a life of their own, they are a portal to the mind of the river, telling a story about its journeying. The riversong takes me on a journey too, takes me somewhere else, to another place, a deep place where the mind is still and the heart is infinite. It is a place that is both here at the riverbend and deep in a sense of the infinite timelessness of life. This sentient embrace with the riverbend weaves the past and future in a single unfolding moment. It is as though the whole river stems from this place where consciousness enters the world, where creation originates, like a sacred fountain from which life continuously spills forth into this world.

The singing river is like a skilled weaver, pulling on my heart and teasing out the long threads of connection. I surrender to the deep love I have for the natural world, let go of tensions twisted like a vine in my solar plexus, imagine my flesh melting again into the fabric of this place. A holy decomposition.

The water in front of me is glistening with light as it dances its way toward the ocean. It looks like both water and fire, as the sunlight dances in the rapids. It’s a freefall into one single breathing, living, thinking wild mind, an immersion into the fabric of nature. The light inside this water is the source of creation, the non-physical body of the devic realm, the substrate from which water manifests in this world. I see it clearly, how this light is present everywhere inside the water and how this light in water is present in everything in existence.

I remember feeling this as a child, slipping effortlessly into and out of the imaginal world, conversing with the non-human realm. It was so natural to let go into one’s imagination and converse with nature. We really do live in a culture of doing, forgetting the wonderful potency of being.

Listen to the river with me: it tumbles over rocks, splashes through the reeds, makes a deep and silent hum of its slow journey to the sea. The sounds of this river are a journey of sensory delights. The tones tumble through my body, like they tumble over the steppingstones. The fall of water over rocks, the hollowness of the waterfall, the deep surging of the channel, the still silence of a pool, the soft tinkling sounds of a trickle. But listen closely, it is also the heavy silence of mist in the air, the raindrops falling through the leaves, the silent depths of the aquifer below. It is the slow rising of floodwaters, the gentle receding of the dry season. It is the rain falling in the mountain, the earth gathering the droplets, the plants drinking from their roots. These sounds are the utterances of the sacred voice of creation. They are a sacred symphony composed by a divine intelligence, weaving endless threads of connection throughout the living world.

The sounds of this scene also contain the collective auditory memory of the river’s ancient lifespan, which is both magically here now, just as much as it leads us back in time to the primordial moments of creation.

Imagine the plethora of sound waves as a magical path, a thread that is connected to this moment where life began, to that place from which it draws its endless renewal, the primordial fountain of youth. This ancient watery melody, older than birdsong, older than the meandering trails of bushbuck, older than this misty forest breath. It takes us back, in the distant past, far away in time. Long before creatures appeared, long before trees reached skywards, the river was here singing. That is the sound of the infant gurgling earth. These were some of its first words, the sounds of its infancy. This is the most ancient language, the language of our origins.

This sound, this magical primordial sound, weaves its way inside you. It has the same sensory similarity as breath in meditation, the familiarity of the flow of blood in our veins. It invokes the familiarity of kinship, shared life, shared soul, the signature of a living heartbeat of a living earth. Look closely and you will see it too, written in the signature of our veins, mapped in our blood vessels, carved in our hearts, the story of the river.

It was this ancient river which gave birth to the cell, which evolved into the forest and eventually into human beings. And our bodies are its mirror. The same story is there in that intelligent genetic code, that divine pattern that shaped and formed the earth and that became a human being. The river speaks of this oneness, this quintessential kinship. It is one body, and we are bodies within this body. This is the divine Julia set fractal of creation.

And just like our spirit rests inside a human body and the human body rests in the earth, so the spirit of a river rests in the body of a mountain, from its high peaks to its alluvial plains. The river’s spiritual birthplace is high in the mountaintops. Its lifespan is a sprightly sojourn from those lonely silent peaks to the endless blue ocean. Sweet trickles, rejoicing song, lighthearted melodies. The deep chanting of serpentine bends. The lilting, surging, cascading and crashing. It is these holiest of songs that take it back home. And in the sparkling melodies of water tumbling over stones there is embedded a voice that is singing the original song of creation, celebrating its aliveness, exclaiming its deep love for the earth. Water loves the ridges of this earth and longs to travel inside the folds of this rocky skin. The sound of this running stream tumbling and surging towards the shore is a love song, a celebration of belonging, of coming together, as close as can be. And when the river reaches the plains it meanders – because it has all the time in the world – and it makes long oxbows of its spaciousness, carves canyons with infinite patience, turns mountains into vast alluvial plains. And finally, when it merges with the ocean, it has come home. And yet it is always coming into being and coming home, endlessly pouring from the vast creative surging of the river of life.

The young poet Whitney Hanson wishes for love like a river, that twists and turns, changes and flows, is powerful and free but consistently makes its way back to the sea. Life is a river, and we are simply making our way back to the ocean.

Steve Hurt

Steve Hurt

Spiritual Ecologist, passionate about African botanicals & the Earth

Steve Hurt’s writing falls within the paradigm of spiritual ecology which approaches ecology from a spiritual perspective. His writing is influenced by shamanism, sufism and a deep love for the earth. Steve currently lives in South Africa and runs a business that trades in African medicinal plants, a trade that is driven by his wish to preserve the rich heritage of African medicinal knowledge for future generations.

To contact Steve: [email protected] Website: http://thedanceoflight.co.za/

Steve Hurt

Steve Hurt’s writing falls within the paradigm of spiritual ecology which approaches ecology from a spiritual perspective. His writing is influenced by shamanism, sufism and a deep love for the earth. Steve currently lives in South Africa and runs a business that trades in African medicinal plants, a trade that is driven by his wish to preserve the rich heritage of African medicinal knowledge for future generations.