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What Discernment Is Not

What Discernment Is Not

The Way of the River, as you might guess, is all about Flow. It is about getting into alignment with the Spirit of love and moving in accordance with that alignment. Ultimately, it is about discernment. It is about discerning where the Flow of Spirit is. It is about discerning what some of us would call the will of God.

It is about setting our sails, paddling our craft, learning the currents and following them. We have agency in this process, but there are some ways that lead us to the Great Sea more reliably than others.

What approaches are contraindicated with the Way of the River?

One is the approach my wife and I call “muscling.” Another friend has called it, “pushing the River.” It’s insisting on one’s own way, one’s first idea, or one’s superficial sense of what one is “supposed to do.” Often muscling involves throwing one’s will toward a given outcome. It rarely results in the outcome one hopes for, and when it does, there are often unlooked-for consequences.

Another approach goes the other way. This is the approach that leads to your boat spinning aimlessly, or getting caught in one of those eddies near the River’s bank. This is the approach many people take when they go over and over the same question, never allowing themselves to move forward.

mountain river reflection
Three Brothers by Todd Petrie

Both of these processes have something in common.

They lack seeking deep inner guidance. They lack prayer and reflection. They lack listening. And listening for what they may, on the surface, not want, but is nonetheless what is called for. What is necessary? What is deepest? What is Spirit asking to bring through you?

The methods I use for discernment come from divinatory (usually by Tarot, sometimes by candle, sometimes by synchronicity), Jesuit, Unitarian, secular-imaginative, and EarthReligious traditions. Discernment is one of the most important skills in a fulfilled and happy life. Learning to distinguish “the world to which you belong” from “all other worlds,” as David Whyte writes in “Sweet Darkness,” is one way to happiness and fulfillment.

Even when things are difficult. Especially when things are difficult, discernment can be our habit. It can be our way towards fulfillment and joy, a sense of love and peace and most of all, clarity.

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