Ali Jafarian
Ali Jafarian

Are you climbing mountains, floating in the river, or existing in the cosmos?

That question might sound like something a child would ask you.  In fact, I give full credit to the curious child in me for sparking such a question 🙂

I’ve been having a lot of beautiful discussions with friends and family around philosophy recently.  Much of this discussion has related to my purpose journey and the human psychology of desire – what we ultimately want and why.

This is an attempt to share the foundational metaphors I’ve been building around these discussions.

Quick context:

I enjoy playing with metaphors and analogies, especially as they relate to philosophy.  I’ve been using mountains and rivers a lot in this context.  I recorded a podcast around this with my good friend, Mike Wagner.

To reiterate the metaphors here we have mountains, rivers and the cosmos. Let’s explore them!



A symbol of achievement.  Something we intend to complete or accomplish.

  • We climb mountains in effort to summit (reach the top or end), which gives us a sense of accomplishment.
  • There is usually a defined start and finish to this experience – we start and then stop at specific points.
  • Climbing is normally associated with a specific goal we intend to realize.
Climbing Mountains

We have all climbed a mountain at some point, and many of us are still climbing to this day.  These are experiences where we aimed to achieve something specific.

Some examples include:

  1. Learning to ride a bike.
  2. Winning a sporting event.
  3. Getting a first job, car or home.
  4. Building, scaling and exiting a business.
  5. Reaching the summit of an actual mountain!

Note that most of these examples start with an intentional action – learning, getting, reaching, etc.

When we pursue a goal or achievement we aim to accomplish something, similar to reaching the summit of a mountain.



A symbol of surrender.  Something we yield to and trust.

  • We float in the river to see where it takes us.
  • The start and finish is not well defined – we get in and out of the river at arbitrary points.
  • Floating is not typically associated with an intended goal, but rather an acceptance of what’s presented.
Floating in Rivers

We have all floated in rivers as well, especially when we were younger and more curious about the world.  These are experiences where we surrendered to something without trying to really control the outcome.

Some examples include:

  1. Exploring the forest or creek in your backyard.
  2. Joining a sports team or social group.
  3. Going on a retreat with a guide.
  4. Attending church or a spiritual event.
  5. Building a team to run your business without you.

When we surrender to things we allow them to guide our journey, just like a river’s natural flow.

Note that most of these examples start with a more voluntary action – attending, exploring, joining, etc.

Until recently, the mountain and river were the only players in this game.  I thought it was easy to define life events in these two scenarios.  But then… I realized that there’s something beyond achievement and surrender.  There’s another state that humans can arrive at to feel complete peace.

And so the cosmos was introduced.



A symbol of existence.  Something to simply experience, and nothing more.

  • We exist in the cosmos when we’re done searching for things.
  • There is no start and finish – we simply exist.
  • Existing in the cosmos is not associated with any intention.  It’s being at complete peace with what is.
Reaching the Cosmos

Most of us have also experienced the cosmos.  This state is a bit harder to define but I’d be willing to bet you’ve spent some time in the cosmos.  These are experiences where we feel completely at peace with no intention or agenda.

Some examples include:

  1. Experiencing true love with a soulmate.
  2. Experiencing the sweet juice of biting an apple.
  3. Experiencing the natural fatigue after a great hike.
  4. Experiencing the curiosity and pure joy of a child.
  5. Experiencing an act of god or miracle that defies science.

When we experience things in their entirety with no intention or expectation we allow them to be everything, just like the cosmos.

The cosmos does not have a start or finish.  It does not guide us or ask for surrender.  The cosmos does not ask for anything.  It is already everything we need and nothing more.

How these show up

For most of us, we have a blend of mountains, rivers and the cosmos in our lives.  Some of us are hiking more mountains, some of us are spending more time in rivers, and others are relentlessly seeking the cosmos.  I think our blend can change and shift as we grow.

For example, I did a lot of mountain climbing in my twenties. I was chasing status, achievements and various goals in my professional life. I found a lot of desire attached to material things. I was hungry to climb different mountains, learn new things, and ultimately feel accomplished.

Then in my early thirties I started floating in the river. I began surrendering to things instead of constantly trying to control them. I embraced more personal growth through people, networking and collaboration. I took a break from aggressively climbing mountains when my children came along.

And now as I approach 40 I’ve been more interested in experiencing the cosmos. I’m fascinated with philosophy and finding peace in every day moments. I’m less attached to status, achievement and specific goals.

That said, I am still climbing mountains and jumping back in the river! I still find value in surrendering to things and feeling accomplished.

I also think we can have a blend of all 3 at any given time.  You can have river and cosmos moments while climbing a mountain, for example.  The way we interpret these metaphors is completely up to us.  There is no right or wrong, good or bad, or judgement whatsoever to these metaphors.  They all have their place in life and serve different purposes.

This post can actually be summarized as an instance of all three:

  • Writing and publishing this post is a form of climbing the mountain.  I accomplished communicating my thoughts.
  • Sharing this with others is a form of floating in the river.  I have no idea or intention for what this might spark for you. I’m surrendering to whatever this creates.
  • Reading this post is a form of experiencing the cosmos.  It brings me internal peace and requires nothing else 🙂

Ali Jafarian

Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.

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