We are all standing in the river of life.
At birth we’re tipped into it. We get some basic tuition on how to not drown (hopefully!) and then we’re on our own. Sometimes the river flows wild, sometimes it meanders gently. Sometimes deep, sometimes shallow. Rapids, tiny trickles, steep-sided basins and thundering waterfalls – sooner or later we’re going to meet them all. When we’ve lived out our natural span, we’ll eventually be carried out to sea to become part of le grand bleu.
As we stand with the water flowing around us, our shape and our actions have effects on how the water flows beyond us. If we are big, we’re going to cause more of a swell as the water passes us. If we are small, the ripples are going to be likewise smaller.
The more we move, the more active we are, the more active will be what flows out from us, and vice versa. If we’re immobile, the water might flow around us almost as if we weren’t there. If we’re thrashing around not only are we going to make waves but we might also stir up the riverbed, creating consequences for other beings sharing the river with us. In terms of shape, the more streamlined we are, the smaller and smoother the ripples will be.
Of course, we are not alone in the river – though it may feel very much as if we are. The ripples and waves, the effects of others, have a bearing on aspects of the flow as it reaches us. If just upstream from us is something, or someone big, possibly lop-sided, possibly flailing around, what comes to us will be more turbulent and less easy to negotiate. If we are able to maintain a steady stance, those waves and torrents are more likely to pass over and around us without knocking us off our feet and sending us tumbling.
In the interests of maintaining the metaphor, I suggest that daily meditation helps us in a variety of ways; first of all, we actually become aware that we are in the midst of an ever-changing flow. As time progresses, the steadiness that comes with daily practice enables us to stand, move or simply let go and float as required by the conditions around us – all in the interests of keeping our head above water and making life easier for those around us. Deep meditation could be said to function as a snorkel and mask, enabling us to look under the surface of the water at the objects and forms that we otherwise cannot see – continuing to breathe all the time.
In terms of chanting, when we work with a particular mantra we create a whole new shape in ourselves and the water flows around us in a new way. With the new flow come new ripples, eddies and currents flowing out from us. Long term, extended practice leads to a distinctive flow of both internal responses and external effects. This distinctive pattern helps to make life easier to negotiate and also means that we are less likely to create disruption for other beings further downstream.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my watery metaphor and are having a great day wading, swimming, floating or paddling in this great river in which we live. If you stay still long enough, you might even see some shiny little fishes darting around your legs.
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha