Saturday, July 7, 2012

Water Is All

On early morning walks around the lake, I notice vegetation, so recently a vivid green, shifting now toward tan under the blaze of a searing sun. Acres burn nearby, weather patterns change, and the political arena heats up as well. And in our personal lives, relationships shift, fortune comes and goes, and loved ones weaken and die as new beings incarnate and begin their own too~brief travels through the world.
It’s enough to make a person melancholy, even a bit frightened. How do we move through the uncertainties of life with spirits intact?
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh speaks of two dimensions, the historical and the ultimate. His metaphor is the ocean, a lovely image for these hot days. Waves live in the historical dimension, as do all things that begin, end and change with time. When we touch the ultimate, however, we know that wave is only water and water is all.
When we focus on a particular wave~~the discomfort of sweltering temperatures, the rancor of the political arena, or some nagging problem~~our vision contracts. We zero in on a transitory occurrence, and the salty sea is lost to the waves.
It’s time, then, to consciously reorient. Nhat Hanh’s metaphor reminds us this needn’t be so very difficult. Water is right here. We simply shift our awareness. We cease our ruminations and outward busyness and awaken to the present moment, just as it is. For if the historical dimension exists in time, the ultimate is most directly experienced in the present. As the Indian yogi Prajnanapada put it, “If you are in the moment, you are in the Infinite.”
Most of us must cultivate an ability to perceive the enduring within the temporal. With practice, however, we learn to move between the two with greater ease, and even to hold both in the same moment.
On this morning’s walk, I again ached for the thirsty flora and fauna that call this place home. I hurt, too, for those affected by the fires. Then something shifted.

I still walked on parched earth, and flames had become no less deadly. Yet, everything was suddenly more alive. I had opened. I breathed into a vibrancy of which I had not been aware just seconds before. It wasn’t so much that the historical dimension gave way to the ultimate. It was that the ultimate rose up and was shimmering everywhere.

In Nhat Hanh’s image, I was no longer captivated by waves. The ocean was all, and it shone through each and every ripple. For a few moments, I was merely a molecule in a vast sea. And then another wave surged and swept me away.

No matter the waves any of us surf, we can open to the ocean. It may not change the height or intensity of the particular wave that holds us, but reorientating to that which is larger and imbuing us all~~waves and surfers alike~~can only help.

As one H2O molecule to another, namaste!

Loanne Marie