"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”
I contemplate this Heraclitus quote as I dip my bare feet into the River Jordan on a beautiful afternoon. I was not expecting the water to be clear, beautiful, calm, or tourist-free. But there I was, standing on the banks of what could have been any ordinary river—and yet this river has an extraordinary, legendary history. For example, the tribes of Israel under Joshua crossed this river to enter the Promised Land after years of wandering in the desert. And, Jesus happened to be baptized in these waters. These are just the highlights of this river’s bragging rights. So, my little toes have shared in some powerful history.
The site of Yardenit in Israel, at the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, welcomes visitors and pilgrims of all faiths and nationalities. Scripture written in every possible language adorn the entrance walls. Despite its outwardly religious foundation, this is a spiritual place. The wind whispers gently through the meditation gardens and trees, and every cell of my body feels as though a magnet has ordered them to relax, exhale, and feel loved.
Moments like this feel like a lucid dream. Rather than just seeing it with my eyes, like an image to capture in a photograph, my sense of “beingness” dissolves and my senses feel activated. Even months later, I can taste the sweetness of the dates I ate before dipping my toes into the silky, cool water. I can “feel” the sun and wind on my skin, along with the electrifying warmth and energy of the hand I held. I can see the light on the reeds, through the trees, and its reflection on the water. I can hear the sounds of life and silence, and the smell of dried grass and damp earth. And, with the sound of my breath, I feel my heart connecting with it all once again, as if for the first time.
Even though, the river is not the same. And, neither am I.