No doubt almost all of us raised in the West have heard the following little nursery rhyme. So sweet. So innocent. It’s been rolling around in my head for quite some time. For what reason, I’m not really sure. Probably to teach me something I need to learn.

Here it is: “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.”

A fun little song many moms or aunties or teachers used to sing to us when we were very very young. Light hearted and gay on the one hand. Filled with the wisdom of the ages on the other. From where I sit, here’s how:

“Row, row, row your boat”: We travel through life in a container, our body-mind, which houses the person we are and the person we were meant to be. This container helps us to get from A to B, from the start of our life to its end. The trip takes serious ongoing effort to move our vessel along the way, hence ‘row’, meaning “something difficult to do” is used three consecutive times.

Interestingly enough, the song also mentions “your boat” and not your neighbor’s boat. So while we’re traveling through life in this boat or container, our body-mind, it’s meant to be unique to us. Rather than being a copy-cat version of all of the other “boats” we see around us.

“Gently down the stream”: The stream is the space all around us and within our own minds. It’s connected to the life experiences we’ve lived throughout our lives.

The song suggests we make the trip through this space in a gentle way, or a peaceful way, which by the way implies our travels could be otherwise. They could be turbulent or chaotic. Sound familiar?

Permit me to digress for a moment: Where would this turbulence and chaos have come from?

To create turbulence and chaos in a human, two things would need to have happened: we would need to have been harmed from the outside in and be in need of protection from those around us who lack an awareness of themselves to have hurt us in the first place. And we would need to have perpetuated the harm done to us from the inside out, and be in need of protection from our own critical thoughts, unruly emotions or haunting memories.

What would happen if our ‘stream’, the space all around us and in our own minds that is connected to our life experiences, was stormy? How good would we be at surfing its turbulence? Would we have what we need to deal with the intensity of the uprisings, or would we fall their victim, succumb to our fear and lose control?

This innocent little song playing over and over in my head has been trying to remind me to manage my inner turbulence, be my unique self, and go gently as I travel through life.

I know, I know, it’s all easier said than done. But doable nonetheless. I have made headway. And if you want to, so can you.

As for the “life is but a dream” part of the song, well, let’s save that another day.