My River of Sadness – By Jennifer Black

I have a River of Sadness, locked deep inside of me, underneath everything I do and say and believe.

I actually gave this title to this sadness feeling, and I inducted it into the permanent makeup of who I am, and I told all my friends about it, and I expressed how proud I am that I can accept it and keep moving forward.

It started in childhood, when things didn’t go my way. It carried through high school and college and every other day along the way.

It was with me so long that I forgot about it for years…until I arrived in Costa Rica.

I took a journey there, recently, to assist the chef at a yoga retreat center.

The journey there was beautiful beyond belief. First a nonstop flight from Los Angeles to San Jose, and then a second puddle-jumper flight over the waters to Tambor. From there it was a 30-minute cab ride to the retreat center property, where I was picked up on an ATV, which had to then cross a river four times to get me to The Sanctuary.

This river…how mighty was its beauty. You could see it flow right into the Pacific, and there were butterflies and sun sparkles and birds and the clouds in the heavens. It felt like it held all the secrets to so much happiness.

My plan was to stay seven weeks at this retreat, and assist in the kitchen. I had no idea how hard that job would be. Fifteen hour days with few breaks, chopping and cooking and eating and serving, and washing dishes and drying and visiting, and then doing it all over again day after day. It started to break me, to say the least.

The jungle is not for sissies. I had bug bites all over me. The only reason they didn’t itch was because I would swim in that river every day. I had cut up hands and broken nails from grating and chopping in the kitchen, with dirt shoved so far under the nails, that I just left it there, we all did. And my hair…the longer I was there the more I couldn’t brush it because of the humidity on my curls. So I stopped trying altogether, and pulled it back every day in a bandana, which thankfully also hid my ever-burgeoning roots of gray. It was a bird’s nest, I must say. And the sweat that rolled down me, every day, every minute, immediately after my showers, and while I was working in the kitchen. There was no makeup. Only one day did I try to wear powder, and it looked so hideous in the jungle that I washed it off immediately. And because there was no powder, then all the scars on the history of my face would shine like the sun, and yes I saw the stares of everyone. I had severe neck pain, for every day I juiced 40 oranges for the beautiful people on these retreats. My hips began to lock up, from walking daily over uneven terrain. I had a five-day migraine.

My physical body was broken by discomfort. I thought I was a very healthy girl. I thought I was so tough and nothing could break me. I was mistaken greatly.

I began to detach from the body. The only way I could make peace with it all was to take my mind to a comfortable place, like meditation. This caused my heart to open, and held a giant mirror of the truth right to my face. And what I saw of me in this state I did not like, and I was made of anything but grace.

I did not handle myself well in this broken place, and so the chef and I got into a shouting fight in the kitchen one day. I had decided to leave after five weeks instead of seven, and so she would have to pick up the work that I would no longer carry.

We both had things we wanted to say, and we certainly said them. I respected our right to express, but it was very difficult to find myself in a place I haven’t been in a decade…fighting loudly with someone I am close with.

The fight got so intense that I chose to go for a walk.

When you get far enough on your awakening journey, you know that any problem you have with another does nothing but become a problem for you. At this point, it could never feel good for me to tell someone off, as we say. Even though I said exactly what I wanted to her, I still felt defeated in every way.

I walked right toward my friend, the river.

Sweet little brown dog, Warfie, appeared out of nowhere, the way he had shown up so many times to support me as I would be alone and cry.

We are never alone, are we?

I walked through the center of this river this day, and there I found a big pile of rocks that rested above the water, and I laid down on my side, frozen and not caring that the rocks were poking me, and not caring there might be snakes, and I cried. I cried and cried and cried, for over an hour just Warfie and I, as he sat there like a guard dog and took watch over me with his butt touching mine.

In an instant I opened my eyes. I felt something happening. I heard the voice inside, “You are free, my beautiful child. This is your River of Sadness releasing, and I have given you this beautiful place where it can go, and you are so loved here, thank you, for not even this is your story.”

And I cried more. Now I could feel what was happening. I could feel that River of Sadness rise up out of me and flow out to join that river that held me. I was astonished. My goodness, how long and hard I believed that this River of Sadness was a part of me, and always would be. I thought I was a great person to accept it and keep going. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten all about it, and still it was coming up and leaving me.

The truth is, not even the greatest sadness of our lives is part of our story. Not if we don’t want it to be. I made a choice long ago that I no longer wanted to be my past. I have gone through so much work of forgiveness. I am free. And that does mean that absolutely no labels will serve me.

So I remained still in amazement as this river flowed out of me and around me. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I am so often led to beautiful places of the world to experience my deepest things. My adventures are my healing.

We are not the stories we have made up. There is no past thing that now belongs to us. We are creating ourselves anew in every single moment, and I just wanted to share this with you.

Don’t believe in your River of Sadness, because even something that has belonged to you since childhood is just another imagining.