The Water of Life

Water and flowing rivers are often used as metaphors for life. Intuitively, we know that the nature of life and spirit are somehow like the nature of water in its many forms. We invite you to experience the following meditation, perhaps to deepen or clarify your sense of the nature of your spirit. Perhaps it will help you to map where in your life are the dams and stagnant pools and where your spirit flows free. Take your time and read slowly, or have someone read this to you. Give yourself the luxury of a pause in your busy day to think unhurried thoughts and feel beyond your normal sensations.

Give yourself a few moments to settle your mind. Let your mind become still like a crystal mountain lake. Let your breathing become like the gentle wind in the trees. It rises and falls with no effort on your part. Its whisper brings only peace. Its movement only enhances your sense of stillness. Your thoughts are like gentle ripples on the lake. They are of no great consequence and they cannot disturb the deep stillness below the surface. With each breath your muscles relax. They are like the leaves on the trees that surround your lake. They move only with the breeze. They hang loose and unrestricted-- no grasping, no tension.

Now, imagine you are a drop of water resting on a leaf high on the side of a mountain. A while ago you were almost nothing -- a few molecules of oxygen and hydrogen floating free, but in the cool mountain air you found yourself condensing out of the fog to a single drop of dew. You are pure and clean and newborn. You lie comfortably on this bed of green for a while, but then you notice that you are growing gradually larger, and as you grow you feel a force working on you. Gravity works on your expanding mass drawing you to the edge of the leaf. You pause, and then with no volition and no resistance fall away from the leaf and down to a new level of existence.

You find yourself now in the company of other water drops. You feel the pull of the earth drawing you and your companions together, and soon you sense the movement of your little group along the earth. Little by little you move along growing in power, gaining mass, and soon you find yourself part of a stream. You sense yourself as part of something great moving ever along the face of the earth, never quite knowing where you are going, but always drawn on. You are drawn by a force that is so much a part of your existence that you forget it is there. It motivates every move you make, but it is as if it is nothing. In spite of its power, the force is invisible to you, and as you grow and as its effect on you increases, you become less and less aware of it.

As gravity pulls you and your companions along, you find yourself part of a larger stream. It grows and gains momentum, and soon your stream is a river.

Your river carries you along swiftly now. As the speed of your flow has increased, so has the turbulence. You find yourself swept along through dark canyons and down roaring rapids. Sometimes you are thrown free of the flow and find yourself splashed against the rocks. Sometimes time seems to slow as you hang almost unmoving in stagnant pools held by the force, but cut off from the flow.

Sometimes, going nowhere, you evaporate into seeming nothingness. But every time you awaken again back on the mountain and the journey begins once more.

As you flow in your river, you become aware of other beings that depend on you. Your river is full of plants and animals from one celled protozoa to great salmon and sturgeon. These life forms take you for granted because you are all they know. Without any intention, you form the structure for their existence. You are them and they are you. When you are healthy and clean, life grows in you. When you lose your luster, life dims and dies.

Somewhere along the way you may find yourself behind a great dam. Someone has put it there to slow your path and harness your power. Perhaps you wonder at the wisdom of blocking the cycle of life that is the flow of the river, but there you are confined and under pressure. You may be trapped there for a long while, and all you can do is remember the rightness you felt in your free flowing state higher on the mountain.

If you are lucky, you'll find yourself beyond the dam before you evaporate this time. You'll again feel the flow, and maybe now you'll see more clearly the power and importance of the force that draws you along your way.

And as you travel on you gain in wisdom, and the understanding grows that you are not an individual drop of water. You are a part of a great river that is part of something greater still. What is beyond the banks that hold you in is a mystery, but you know it is awesome and great. You come to see that all the other drops of water are just like you. You move and they move, not separately, but together-- each affecting the other.

As your journey draws on, you become aware that the banks that held you in are no longer apparent. You have become part of the great sea. Your individuality means nothing here. You know now that the illusion of separateness is just that-- an illusion. You and the other drops of water are all one. Sometimes a drop appears to be a drop, but soon its true nature is revealed as it resumes its flow, as it again finds its place in the cycle.

Nothing is lost when the drop becomes a river or when the river becomes the sea. Everything is gained as the great water wheel turns. The sea gives birth to wind and wind gives birth to rain. Rain gives life to land and land carries the river back to the sea.

As we live our human lives, let us be like the water. Let us be conscious of the flow. Let us not forget the great ground of being that draws us on through life. Let us live in a knowing hope, aware that all being is in transition, that all movement is back to the source. Let us treat those around us as reminders of our illusionary individuality. We know that they are us and we are them connected in ways we cannot fathom. Let us grow in compassion for all beings, for they share our journey.

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© 2002 Tom Barrett