Blog reflections by Elizabeth Shoop, LPC
“What’s in a name?”
If you’ve been following my work for a while, you may notice some new branding and a new practice name; Rivers Way Counseling.
Naming is a big deal. Names hold tremendous power, meaning, and intention for that which is named. I guess that’s why I took my time with discernment, inspiration, and becoming clear about my business name. In this blog, I’ll share the personal, vocational and spiritual layers of meaning behind Rivers Way.
Rivers Way pays homage to my background; the headwaters that formed me and started me flowing on my way.
Rivers was my first last name, and it feels fitting to weave in honor for my parents, without whom this Little River would not be flowing. I honor their currents: twists and bends; rapids and banks. And of course, the ancestral springs, streams and environmental factors that spawned their journeys as well.
“I’m carried along like a leaf on the river of faith, and
I’ll float… all the way home.”
Andrew Petersen, Carried Along (Lyrics)
The hours and days and nights spent adventuring along the Little River in Montgomery and Floyd Counties were formative. This time cultivated my spirit of adventure and courage that ultimately fuels the fires of leadership and entrepreneurship within me; which has enabled me to start my own business.
There are so many profound moments in my life that have occurred near flowing waters; way too many to mention here. But, from those first splashes on the pebble beach, to my most recent retreats held in a nourishing bend in the North River; the Rivers Way has marked my course.
Now that you have some background from my personal life, here’s how the river theme flows into my work as a counselor and facilitator of change.
Two key literary passages encapsulate my course of therapy and my passion for offering retreats. The poem “Fear” from the book The Prophet by Khalil Gibran provides symbolism that allows us to visualize the journey of life, but also aptly describes the journey of counseling or therapy for myself and many of my clients.
by Khalil Gibran
It is said that before entering the sea
A river trembles with fear.
She looks back at the path she has traveled,
from the peaks of the mountains,
the long winding road crossing forests and villages.
And in front of her,
she sees an ocean so vast,
that to enter
there seems nothing more than to disappear forever.
But there is no other way.
The river can not go back.
Nobody can go back.
To go back is impossible in existence.
The river needs to take the risk
of entering the ocean
because only then will fear disappear
because that’s where the river will know
it’s not about disappearing into the ocean,
but of becoming the ocean.
This poem visually and viscerally represents to me what the therapy journey is like; the juxtaposition of fear and courage it takes to become something new, and yet original. It is my privilege to take this voyage alongside my clients for a stretch of time and witness their courage to continue moving and progressing toward their destination (counseling goals), which is symbolized by the river entering the sea. At the same time, therapy recognizes their oneness and completeness on their own, while also fostering that oneness within the shelter of each other, and back into the ultimate Source.
The second passage, from Secrets of the Heart by Khalil Gibran, adeptly captures why I do retreats. This passion began in Girl Scout jamborees and riverside campfires, and meanders through a long history of attending retreats as a participant. Then, in 2018, I stepped onto the Holy Ground of facilitating nature-based retreats for others. In this passage, Gibran describes what happens at these retreats…
“Your Truth shall meet my Truth
And blend together like the fragrance of flowers
And become one whole and eternal Truth,
Perpetuating and living in the eternity of Love and Beauty.
Humanity, which you and I together share,
Is a brilliant river singing its way,
And carrying with it the mountain’s secrets
Into the heart of the sea.”
These two passages help keep me anchored to my vocational calling. And I cannot speak of calling without exploring the Source of the call…
The river is a strong symbol of the spiritual path woven throughout many religious traditions and sacred texts. But also, the word “Way” comes into play here as a very intentional and significant part of the name I chose.
In the Christian tradition (also my headwaters), the early church was originally known simply as “The Way.” Jesus identified himself by this term, saying, “I am the Way, the truth and the life…”
The Taoist tradition emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao, the ultimate source of everything. While the Tao is famous for its indescribable essence, the closest symbolic translation is “way;” the proper way to fully come into being, using practices that lead toward spiritual perfection or enlightenment (Perhaps, what the Christian tradition calls salvation.)
Maybe these two different traditions refer to the same “way;” the way of living water which flows from source to Source, within the riverbanks of form, along the tumult of currents and surges, soft but strong, giving but unrelenting, passive yet determined to reach its destination.
Perhaps there is only one Way to the source of existence, as the Christian scriptures suggest. Jesus was the embodiment of the way, demonstrating the right Way to navigate the tenuousness of being an earthly body in divine flow; while the Tao describes the very same Way in more symbolic, mystical, archetypal language and imagery.
Of course, many world religions and ethnogenic traditions refer to water as a divine representation of spiritual truth. I enjoy the innumerable ways I see these paths converge into a ubiquitous Truth, which is good news for all.
Yes, Rivers Way Counseling seems to be the most succinct way to convey the many layers of meaning and purpose of my practice of counseling and creating sacred spaces for growth and transformation. Three words that come together to convey why I do what I do; personally, professionally, spiritually.
Rivers Way can be an analogy for all of us. We’re all on our own journeys, with wild rapids, easy currents, and moments where we need to bring the boat ashore so we can take a break. Every journey has meaning and purpose, and each one is unique - just like each of us, our backgrounds, our beliefs, and whatever else makes each of us. But, ultimately, every one of our rivers leads into the source - the sacred Oneness.
I’m here to help you on your journey, and to share tools, resources, and support to guide you on this great adventure. I hope that Rivers Way Counseling can be a part of your journey in some way.