Finding the Deep River Within by Abby Seixas
“Are you busy?” my young friend from Palestine asks in a chat box.
“Of course,” I respond. “But no busier than usual. What’s up?”
And so we begin our short visit, with me multitasking in between sentences, and my friend likely wondering why I can’t take few minutes to just do one thing at a time. I don’t think I’m unusual, at least in this accelerated electronic society of ours here in the U.S. But sometimes I wish I could just slow down. Maybe you wish you could, too.
Finding the Deep River Within addresses the need to take “time-in,” as author Abby Seixas (SAY-shus) calls it. Seixas knows whereof she writes, both as a woman and as a psychotherapist. Subtitled A Woman’s Guide to Recovering Balance & Meaning in Everyday Life, this book speaks to me and to the issues we women face on a daily basis. (That’s not to say men can’t gain insights from the book, too. Until a male therapist pens a book like this for men, you guys might just find many parts of the book speak to you, too.)
In the “Introduction,” Seixas writes,
This book is about slowing down. It is a guide to reclaiming our lives from the tyranny of our to-do lists and bringing more of the deep inner resources we all possess into our everyday living. When we are feeling overwhelmed and out of control, it helps to know how to step away from busyness and get enough perspective to remember what our true priorities are. We have this sense of perspective within us. When the perpetual motion of trying to get things done makes us dizzy, it helps to know how to find stillness. We have this stillness within us. When we feel at the mercy of others’ demands, it helps to know how to center ourselves and respond with clarity. We have this clarity within us. These are the kinds of resources that flow from the Deep River realm. This book is a guide for contacting the dimension of our being where these spiritual qualities live. It will explain what the Deep River is and why it is important — not only for ourselves but for all our relationships — and then offer practical tools for accessing this realm more regularly and opening to it more fully when it unexpectedly breaks through life’s routines.
Too Busy to Take Time-In
This is a busy time in my life, as I juggle the multiple responsibilities of publishing Blue Planet Green Living, being a wife, mothering (mostly from a distance) my adult kids, volunteering, nurturing friendships, paying the bills, doing the books for our business, and sharing elder care duties for Joe’s adorable 90-year-old mom. Maybe that doesn’t even sound like much compared to what you’re dealing with; if so, I’m not surprised — especially if you still have children living at home. We all have loads of responsibilities heaped on top of each other, sometimes so high that we have trouble stepping over them just to find our way to bathroom.
So, I was both eager and reluctant to get started reading Finding the Deep River Within. I knew I wanted to give it a careful read; Abby Seixas is one of our contributing writers, and I like her. I wanted to give her book (a complimentary copy, for full disclosure) a careful and respectful review. I wanted to be able to read it, pause for reflection, then read some more until I finished. But it just didn’t seem possible to even get started with everything I had on my plate. Then Abby sent me an email, inquiring whether I’d taken time to read it yet.
“No,” I answered, rather embarrassed, then recited my litany of excuses. I simply didn’t know when I’d be able to get to it.
“No worries, Julia!! I totally understand (that’s why I wrote the book!…’too much to do, not enough time’),” she wrote.
So I gave myself a deadline (it was last week, sigh) by which I’d get this post written. And I took the book along to visit my mother-in-law, to read each night after she fell asleep.
When I finally started reading, I didn’t want to stop. The book knows me, understands the reason I hadn’t gotten to it sooner. In fact, this book is about me (and you, and you, and you…). I almost laughed aloud to realize that by postponing something I wanted to do for myself (as well as for Seixas), I was falling into the same pattern described in the book. I discovered I needed that “time-in” Seixas writes about just to absorb what she has to share — and she has a lot to share — about the struggles of getting in touch with oneself in the whirlwind of modern life.
Uncommon Wisdom for Everyday Life
I love the title of the first chapter, “The Disease of A-Thousand-Things-To-Do.” Without even knowing you, I can make a safe bet that you’re infected, just as I am. Most of us don’t know how to set down those lists (mental or on paper) and take some time for ourselves. Not often enough, anyway, and quite likely not until someone else nudges us to do so.
Throughout the book, Seixas does a masterful job of weaving together information and insights that open the reader’s eyes to realities we can’t always see for ourselves:
- Relevant facts (“The average working couple in America spends twenty minutes a day together.”)
- Examples from her psychotherapy practice (“For Louise, a mother of two who worked full-time…”)
- Wisdom from other writers (“Clarissa Estés describes what happens when we are cut off from our inner selves through the archetypal story of the seal woman…”)
- Quotations (” ‘Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.’ — Attributed to Goethe”)
- Practical suggestions (“A journal is another excellent tool to help make contact with the Deep River within.”)
- “Blocking Beliefs” (“Blocking beliefs are the thoughts, sometimes conscious, sometimes not, that stop us before we get started. They’re the mental naysayers that hinder our momentum in making changes. We usually try to deal with these beliefs by ignoring them. We do our best to keep them on the periphery or totally out of our awareness. The problem with this approach is, simply, that it doesn’t work.”)
- “Exercises”: (“The best way to ensure that time-in will become part of your daily routine is to plan for it. This exercise is a tool for planning…”)
- Wisdom of her own (“[A]ll of our victories, no matter how small, are big in two ways: first, any action or new way of thinking that breaks the inertia of habit has the potential to foster a turn in a desired direction. Second, victories achieved can build on one another and, over time, create a reservoir of success, as well as additional momentum for change.”)
When I read the “Blocking Beliefs” sections at the end of each chapter, I was sometimes challenged to see where they applied to me. I’ve done my share of self-work, so I’ve conquered some of these hurdles already. But others were a real wake-up call (“Blocking Belief: ‘Once Everything Is Checked Off the List, Then I Can Have Some Fun’”).
One of the hardest things for me to do was to take time for the Exercises. But that’s exactly why I needed to force myself to do them. The exercises reinforce the lessons of each chapter. They give readers the tools to handle the issues Seixas addresses, from that first chapter (“The Disease of A-Thousand-Things-To-Do”) through “Take Time-In,” “Make Boundaries,” “Befriend Feelings,” “Tame Self-Expectations,” “Practice Presence,” and “Do Something You Love.” Some of the exercises had a ring of famiiliarity, but quite a few were completely novel to me. (Who would have thought that contemplating a raisin before eating it would be so profound an experience?)
Making Time for Priorities
When Abby Seixas writes of finding balance, she isn’t sitting on a pedestal telling strangers what’s wrong with our lives. She is a kindred spirit, a sister. She’s been there. She knows. (“The responsibilities of new motherhood had so consumed my time, energy, and attention that I wasn’t even aware that the fun side of me had virtually disappeared.”)
With a gentle hand, she guides readers to re-examine our daily practices, think about how we can get in touch with our own Deep River and find our true selves once again. For me, the final chapter, “Do Something You Love,” was the most touching. Seixas not only gave me permission to enjoy life, she virtually gave me doctor’s orders to do so (in a nice way, of course).
Doing something you love can bring the qualities of play, creativity, fun, silliness, excitement, inspiration, passion, beauty, and enjoyment into your life. it’s a cure for taking life too seriously. Without having something you love to do somewhere in your schedule, the activities that fill your days — including the Deep River practices — run the risk of adding up to life as one long, burdensome list of things to do. Many women say they are seeking more balance in their lives; rarely do they mean, ‘I need to balance out too much enjoyment of life with more duty and responsibility.’
I realized just now how much Finding the Deep River Within has impacted my thinking. I haven’t knitted for nearly 40 years, but behind me sits a bag with organic-cotton yarn and brand-new, bamboo knitting needles. As I was driving home from an appointment yesterday, I stopped on the spur of the moment — in the midst of a snowstorm — at a knitting store I’ve been wanting to visit. My daughter has taken up knitting, and we’ve been talking for weeks about how much fun it would be to knit together. I never found the time — until I finished reading Seixas’ book.
Thank you, Abby Seixas, for helping me make time in my life to have some fun with those I love. The lists will still be there tomorrow, but tonight I will sit with my daughter as she teaches me how to knit.
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