Let a river run through you...

Imagine you’re atop a mountain, high in the Garhwal range, breathing in the rarefied air, beside a small mountain stream, a 'babbling' brook, straight out of a Wordsworth poem.

You pause by its side to catch your breath, revel in its icy coolness as it wends its way past rocks. Their jagged edges have, quite like the edges of rough people, been smoothened by the water's tenacious persistence. The water will keep you company, like a faithful friend, twisting and turning with you as you go through your journey. You will see it stumble and fall, rise and roar. Perhaps it will occur to you, as it occurred to me, that the inanimate stream cascading down rocks, in and out of gullies, is so much like a spiritual presence. Ultimately, you may forget what the water looked like, but by then it would have journeyed through your soul, telling you things about yourself.  I say this because I have seen every stage of my life mirrored in the life of the river, as it courses its way from humble beginnings, to its mighty glory, to its end, be it in an ocean or a lake.

There have been times when I have, as I trudge up the punishing slope, lugging half my body weight in gear, turned around and seen that same brook, now a stream, spent of its initial bravado taking a lazy bend, around a hamlet or a rocky beach. You can see it is tired, and I cannot help but feel a resonance in what I feel within me, and what I think the stream feels as it carries on, unmindful of its travails.

Just as there are lows, there are highs. When the last piton goes into the mountain rock, and the peak is in sight, you feel that last surge of adrenalin that belies your tiredness. You draw on reserves of strength you never knew existed. And as you exult in a goal achieved, in your mind the stream roars over a sheer drop, as it cascades in white foam over an impossible drop. There is a strange parallel between exhilaration and the sight of a waterfall, as it joyously leaps off known boundaries into the unknown. The outdoors can change the way you feel about life: try closing the umbrella the next time it rains. Get wet, enjoy the drizzle, feel the water on your back. Your mind and body will immediately rejoice. Don't you see children running through the rain, unmindful — always with a smile on their face? It's from the utter joy of being one with nature.   Journey into India's plains and you will be transported to a world where a different set of rules apply. Spiritualism is in the air on the ghats of the mighty rivers that make their way past sadhus, devotees, saints and sinners. Here the river takes on a hue you will never see in the mountains.

One of a mother that nurtures, cares for, and provides sustenance to its children.

Little wonder that rivers in India are deified and worshipped and form part of folklore and legend alike. And what better way to end one's life than return as ashes into gently lapping waves, the open arms of a caring mother?  This is why the river is a mirror of the human soul, and there is much that it can teach you. But this can only happen if you go out to the river, feel it wash over your feet as you cool them after a hard day’s climb, or feel it wash over you as you take on the whitewater rapids in a raft.

You must let yourself go and immerse yourself in its waters, and then perhaps for a fleeting moment, you would have found a soulmate.

The author is a trained mountaineer and founder/director of Wildcraft, an outdoor gear and adventure company.

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