I sit by a crystal-clear lake and dip my cup into the fresh clean water. It has taken years to get here, but I have no idea how long I may stay. I decide to set that uncertain future aside and take pleasure in my surroundings. With each sip from my cup, I’m reminded to savor the moment, live in the present. But it is difficult. Since I have chosen not to think about the future, my past floods my thoughts.
I am born, and I am the snow on a mountaintop, pure and virtuous. My only preconception is to love. That is why I am here. To love and to be loved. I am perfection, but it will not last. It begins at once. The pure and virtuous snow slowly melts and cascades down the mountain. I wish it to stay atop the peak, to insulate me from change, but my wish is not granted. The droplets collect in a bubbling brook below.
Suddenly I am only one of a bevy of bubbles and we dance together. I feel joy and happiness. The brook is a playful place to be. I decide it was good that I came down from the mountain. I flow along a winding path as I frolic with my new friends. A few bubbles stay with me, others disappear. I am told this is how it will be. But I can live with that, I tell myself. I like it here, and I wish to stay. But I cannot.
My pace quickens, and soon I find myself tumbling in a frothy, fizzy fashion. I try to hold on to my bubbly friends, but they too have transformed and do somersaults of their own. Tributaries invade from both sides, and I feel forced to capitulate to the peer pressure it generates. My stream of consciousness no longer seems like my own. I feel as if I am out of control. I don’t like it here, but I know I must do what it takes to survive.
I have gained a broader view of myself as I drift into a river that can’t afford to be lazy. The river carries a current that could take me in many different directions. I could lie back and float and see where it takes me. Or I can choose to swim along with it and speed toward my next adventure. But I choose another course and paddle against the current much like taking the road less traveled. I work tirelessly to move forward, occasionally trapped in an undercurrent of doubt. I help others do the same. It is exhausting and exciting. But I sometimes forget to bathe in the beauty.
I have learned that lesson now, as I sit by the lake tasting my newfound freedom. I know that it is natural to remember your past as long as you don’t drown in it. I know I am not the pure and virtuous being I once was, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t strive to be that person again. And I know that my journey is not over.
On the other side of the lake, the water leaks. Where to? I don’t know. But I will share what I believe. Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh tells us that enlightenment is when a wave realizes it is the ocean. We each feed the other. My lake will outflow and feed the next. The waters will evaporate into the universe and eventually return as snow. Then the snow will fall on the mountaintop.
And so it begins. Again!