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  • Writer's pictureTony

Check your depth of Life

It has been a long, strange and emotionally draining year — and many of us may be feeling like we're adrift.

Loneliness and isolation have contributed to fear and mistrust, and many people find they're barely getting by — skimming the surface of life, rather than immersing themselves in the things that give life meaning.

One of the main themes of the quarterly River Readings workshop is "checking your depth and flow," a concept that is particularly important in a year of quarantine and societal turmoil.

The conference, founded and organized by local author Michael Lister, focuses on creativity, spirituality, life, love, art, meaning, wholeness, music, film, healing, relationships and much more. It brings together counselors, thinkers, musicians, authors, teachers, spiritual leaders, artists and many others for in-depth discussions on how attendees can have more productive, successful and, ultimately, happy lives.

“I’m always inspired by what is shared at River Readings,” Michael said. “It’s so helpful to hear how others are thriving in their creative and artistic endeavors, as well as in their relationships and businesses.”

I've been fortunate enough to attend a few of these day-long conferences, and I've presented once or twice. This year, because of COVID-19, River Readings is being held virtually via Zoom on Saturday, Nov. 14.

The schedule will be: Practicing Compassion with Yourself (and Others) at 9 a.m.; The Importance of Spiritual Practices and Creative Processes at 10 a.m.; Creative Distractions with the Artist and Librarian at 11 a.m.; Lunch Session with Music and Art at noon; Bidding Goodbye to Fear and Anxiety at 1 p.m.; How to Survive (and even thrive during) a Global Pandemic at 2 p.m.; and The Healing and Transformative Power of the Arts at 3 p.m. There will also be musical interludes and performances throughout the day.

In addition to Michael, the presenters will include Sarah Burris, Lynn Wallace, Lexi Street, Heather Clements, Meleah Lister Smith, Carrie Farimonti, LaDonna Paul Diaz, Jill Mueler, Jason Hedden and others. Burris, Clements and Mueler will share their art during the conference. Michael will share music, as well Street and Clariece Paulk. Wallace will share his poetry during the virtual luncheon.

Each session has its own link and meeting ID number. Find all the information and direct links to the sessions at

River Readings is free to participate, though you can make a donation to Michael Lister Charities if so desired.

Sarah Burris, the artist and librarian mentioned in the schedule, will share her "Creative Distractions," including her analog collage practice as well as reading recommendations. Her collage work was recently published in CandyFloss Magazine. She is also the community relations and marketing coordinator for the Northwest Regional Library System, and she hosts the literary-themed "BCPL Unstacked" podcast from the Bay County Public Library.  

"We will explore two different ways to create healthy, positive distractions from the added stresses of 2020," Michael said of Sarah's session. "It can be in the form of journaling and making art, or it can be simply through enjoying a good book."

Michael noted that River Readings is also inspired by poetry from Rumi: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you,” and “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

In March, as the world went into lockdown, Michael told his newsletter subscribers that he would be praying for them and for the world, adding that he was hopeful the lockdown would succeed in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. He asked what people might have planned for passing the time and feeding their creative spirits.

"Since many of us around the world will be staying in more, going out less, engaging in fewer social activities, we will have even more time to read," he said. "I certainly plan to read and write even more during this time, and, of course, spend time pursuing my new passion of learning to play the guitar."

So I ask you: What are you doing to recharge your creative spirit, or to explore the depths of your life during this woeful year? What has kept you afloat?

Or have you been treading water, waiting for your toes to touch bottom once again? Maybe this is the life preserver you've been praying for. It can't hurt to reach out.


This was my Undercurrents column for The News Herald's Entertainer this week.

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