I hope you enjoy this post as much as I did… It is beautiful.
by Laura Garren
“Learn this from the waters:/In mountain clefts and chasms,/Loud gush the streamlets,/But great rivers flow silently.”
After reading these words from the Buddha, I reflected on being like water. The thought was like a small pebble falling into a still pond, expanding in all directions. I thought, “Water is life sustaining. Our bodies are composed of almost 78% water, so we should find ease in this state.” But those thoughts led to a question: “What kind of water should we be like? Water takes many forms, so which should we?”
A river has humble beginnings that start with melting snow or condensation from clouds in high elevations. A drip becomes a trickle, which travels downhill, meeting other trickles and forming a stream. “Loud gush the streamlets,” as they continue downhill, joining together and growing until they form a river. Likewise, we begin small and inexperienced, babbling self-importantly. On the other hand, the river is bigger than its beginnings and contains much more water, or wisdom, than a stream; with hope, we will become more like a river as we grow, getting wiser as we “flow silently.” (Well, sometimes, some of us manage to do so. Others continue to gush, but that’s another story.)
Another unique aspect of the river is that it continues to flow, whatever obstacles lay in its path. As the river water flows downstream, it passes over and around rocks, sometimes tumbling over high formations of rock to form beautiful waterfalls. If we choose, we too can get around obstacles in our lives and can create beautiful waterfalls as we cascade through our lives.
I grew up next to an enormous, manmade lake and always took for granted the presence of water. I often took walks along its shores in the winter and fall, and during spring and summer I swam in it almost every day. When I moved away, I missed the lake terribly because it had given me so much. As a result of my relationship with the lake, I think of these bodies of water as big and bountiful, deep and sustaining. If we choose, we can emulate a lake by being generous with whatever gifts we possess and by establishing deep and meaningful relationships with the persons and things we love. We can be the type of person who sustains other people, instead of draining them.
A pond is a miniature lake, often very fecund as a result of the concentration of plant and animal life to water. I think of being a pond when I need to minimize my interaction with the world. Sometimes, in the aftermath of a tragedy or trauma, I need to withdraw and ruminate on what happened. When I need to process something, I become pond-like: small and still, yet allowing the experience to enrich me, as the plants and animals enrich the pond. With hope, I emerge with more wisdom than I had before.
All its life, water strives for the ocean, immense and eternal, ceaselessly ebbing and flowing, ultimately unknowable. I think of the ocean as a manifestation of a Higher Being or Higher State, which we yearn for and which was present long before we were born and will endure long after we die. If we emulate the ocean, therefore, we move toward our Higher Being or Higher State, with which or in which we will survive after death, perhaps to return.
After meditating on ways we can be like water, I must conclude it matters not what form we take. Like a river, we must each find our own way to be like water and to reach the ocean. Still, I think the metaphor is useful, offering a beautiful visual image that we can internalize as we continue on our journey.