Imagine for a moment that, shortly after you were born, you were handed a glass of water and a spoon, and told to spend your life stirring the water ‘or else’. Nothing more was explained, but because the whole thing was so forcefully stated – and because everyone else was doing it, you didn’t really question this instruction – you just started stirring your glass of water.
Over time you started to notice that there was dirt in your water. It wasn’t there when you were given your glass and your spoon. But it’s there now. As time continues to march on, you notice that there’s more and more of it accumulating in your glass. You start to ask around, ‘what to do?’ Others just shrug at you and tell you to stir faster. So you stir faster – stirring your glass of dirty water.
By a certain point your glass of water has become incredibly dirty. ‘Where does all of this dirt come from?’ you ask. But you are told that it’s normal – not to worry about it. Everyone’s glass has dirt in it. Just keep stirring. So you keep stirring your glass of dirty water. But now you’re starting to get thirsty. Here you are with your glass of dirty water – you obviously can’t drink it – so what to do?
As you stand there, stirring your dirty water as fast as you can, you start to think of ways to filter the dirt from the water. Many people tell you that you’re going to get into trouble for thinking such thoughts – ‘remember the ‘or else’?’ But you are thirsty – and growing thirstier every day. So you stir and you stir, trying to come up with a solution to your problem. How to remove the dirt from your water.
One day you notice someone who is walking around with a clear glass of water – and he’s not stirring. ‘My God, how horrible – that one is in terrible trouble’ everyone says. But all you can see is his clear glass of water. You smack your parched lips together, push away your fear, and bravely inquire ‘how is it that your glass of water is clear – why aren’t you stirring like everyone else?’
He smiles at you – luminous and clear. ‘Stop stirring and you will see’ he chuckles. Your fear leaps back into your throat ‘but what about the ‘or else’?’ you demand. He sighs, smiles again – and looks at you with such compassion that it completely envelops you. ‘Stop stirring’ he says again with absolute seriousness – ‘and don’t ask why. Be brave and all will become clear. It’s up to you’.
Left alone with your thoughts, your fears, your dirty water, and your continued stirring, you contemplate everything about your life. But most of all you contemplate your thirst. You decide that you’re not quite ready to stop stirring though – ‘he must be wrong’ you say to yourself. ‘There must be some sort of trick to it’. And so you continue stirring your glass of dirty water with renewed vigor.
A while later, you see another person with a glass of clear water walking by. Again everyone points and mutters ‘that one is going to get in trouble – she’s not stirring’. But you, you are drawn to that glass of cool clear water. Once more, you smack your parched lips together, push away your fear, and bravely inquire ‘how is it that your glass of water is clear – why aren’t you stirring like everyone else?’
She smiles at you – luminous and clear. ‘Stop stirring and you will see’ she chuckles. Your fear leaps back into your throat ‘but what about the ‘or else’?’ you demand. She sighs, smiles again – and looks at you with such compassion that it completely envelops you. ‘Stop stirring’ she says again with absolute seriousness – ‘and don’t ask why. Be brave and all will become clear. It’s up to you’.
You have heard these same words twice now, from people with clean glasses of water; luminous, clear, and untroubled – obviously nourished by the water in the glasses they carry with them. It’s tempting of course, the idea that all you need to do is stop stirring. But then, who would you be if you stopped stirring your glass of dirty water. It’s who you are – this is what life is all about! ‘Isn’t it?’
Left alone with your thoughts, your fears, your dirty water, and your continued stirring, you contemplate everything about your life. But most of all you contemplate your thirst. You decide that you’re not quite ready to stop stirring though – ‘they must be wrong’ you say to yourself. ‘There must be some sort of trick to it’. And so you continue stirring your glass of dirty water with renewed vigor.
A while later, you see a third person with a glass of clear water walking by. You are dying of thirst by now – nearly overcome by it. You’ve wracked your brain over and over again – stirred as hard and as fast as possible. You’ve done everything that you can think of. In desperate hope for a different answer – for the secret trick, you ask this third person. And of course, he says ‘stop stirring’.
You are overwhelmed by fear. Everything that everyone has ever said to you about stirring your water comes to mind. You can hear yourself arguing ‘but everyone else is doing it’. He smiles and says ‘that appears true, but you are all dying of thirst, afraid of what might happen if you stop stirring your dirty water. It is fear and fear alone that is preventing you from drinking your fill and quenching your thirst.’
He stands there with you, staring deeply, with great love and compassion, into your eyes. Something happens inside of you – it’s not something you can explain, but in that moment, you decide that you are ready to stop stirring. You bravely put down your spoon – waiting for the worst to happen. But nothing happens. The man is simply standing there, smiling at you – glowing, beautiful; loving you completely.
Everyone else is yelling at you to pick your spoon back up and start stirring again. They are aghast with fear and terror. ‘Terrible things will happen to you’ they cry out. The man though, he is unphased – and continues smiling his deep knowing smile, warm and compassionate. ‘Look closely’ he says, pointing at your glass of dirty water. You watch as the swirling action from the force of your stirring slows down.
Slowly but surely, as the movement of water in the glass comes to a stop, you watch in absolute amazement as the dirt begins to settle down toward the bottom of the glass. The process is slow, but undeniable. After a while there is a layer of thick dirt filling the bottom half of the glass – and rich, cool, clean water in the top half. But your glass still has dirt in it – so you panic. Your fear comes back again.
As you reach for your spoon, thinking that you’ve been lied to, he slows your hand and says ‘wait’. ‘Use the spoon to scoop out the dirt’ he instructs. ‘Go slow – there is no rush. Just set the dirt aside, one spoonful at a time’. You relax just a bit, but are still gripped by fear – and yet something about this man, and his way, are encouraging to you – and so you do as you are told – slowly and painfully.
It feels like it’s taking forever, and all you really want to do is drink the water. ‘Surely it’s clean enough to sip from the top?’ you whisper aloud. But the man shakes his head ‘No, be patient – have compassion for your thirst – but do not allow it to distract you from the work at hand. You must continue to scoop out all of the dirt until the glass is completely clear – and then you will see.’
As you are removing the last scoop, noticing with still more panic, that your glass is now only half full of water, the man nods in satisfaction. ‘Now watch’ he says. Suddenly, the glass is full of clear, cool, crisp water. Nothing in particular happened. You removed the last scoop of dirt as instructed – carefully and with great love – and suddenly the glass was completely full of the most glorious substance ever.
The man motions for you to drink. As the glass touches your lips, there is such a sweetness to it that it’s beyond all description, beyond all words. As you drink, you realize that you are swimming in this sweetness; that you are – and have always been – swimming in a sea of sweetness – that the very water you yearned for all this time – was all around you – that you yourself are the water drinking itself.
You lose yourself in the sweetness – disappearing completely into it. Nothing has ever been like this. No one has ever experienced anything like this before. You are soaring so high – the man, the world, and all of the people have dissolved into the sea of sweetness that you are. There is nothing that is not you – that is not this sweetness. Deeper and deeper you dive into the ocean of your very Being.
Suddenly you find yourself being pulled back – drawn once more into the world. ‘No, no’ you cry out, so consumed by the experience that you refuse to let go. ‘I must have this sweetness – this sweetness is all there is. I cannot go back to that world, to that place, to those people – to all of the ignorance and suffering – to the dirty water. I cannot go back – I will not go back!’ But you have no choice.
As you find yourself standing there, next to the man once more; humbled and trembling, tears streaming down your cheeks, he smiles at you and says to you ‘you are still this sweetness. Everything that you see and experience is, and always has been this sweetness. The world, those people, their dirty water, it’s all just arising out of and appearing to the sweetness that you are. It’s all there truly is’.
You stare at him in wild disbelief. ‘How can this be? It makes no sense!’ You are so caught up in your denial that you barely notice that you’ve picked up your spoon and started stirring your water again. He nods towards your busy hand and chuckles ‘it is the stirring itself that dirties your water and keeps you from drinking from the sea of sweetness that you are. The stirring is your mind though – just the mind.’
You look down at the spoon in your hand, so long a part of you, so long the story of who you thought you were. You see clearly now, for your very self, that the spoon and the mind are one – and in that moment you set them both down. That you needed the spoon, that you needed to stir, that anything at all needed to be done – it was all the conditioning of your mind – it was all identification with thought.
A sudden wave of peace settles over you. The sweetness of your being lives in that peace – you are that peace. It is all inseparable. Suddenly a great love arises within you – an all-encompassing love for everything as yourself, everything as this sweetness, as this peace, as this joy. It is something that no word can capture or contain because it is not happening in the mind – it is far more intimate than mind.
‘What now’ you inquire. ‘How do I save them from their ignorance?’ you ask; pointing outward in the direction of all those who are still stirring their dirty water. He laughs again. ‘That is not for you to concern yourself with. They are already the same sweetness that you are, but they are not yet ready to leave their world behind – they are simply here, as they are, to teach you patience and compassion.’
‘But they are suffering terribly – and needlessly’ you argue. ‘Perhaps, perhaps not.’ He responds. ‘Perhaps that is just your mind, forgetting the sweetness – arguing with the appearance of a paradox that only exist in the mind and only applies to the mind – forgetting that you are not the mind. Does the sweetness really need to be saved from itself, when it only appears, to your mind, to have forgotten itself?’
‘What then?’ you ask one last time, hopefully. ‘Just enjoy your water. Drink freely, whenever you like, from the ocean of sweetness that you are – remembering always that you are already it – and need not even drink. Carry your clear glass of water with you as an invitation for those who, as you once were, are so thirsty that they are ready to do what is required of them to taste this sweetness for themselves.’
‘Can it be so simple?’ you ponder aloud. ‘It is yet even simpler than that’ he replies. ‘For it is the sweetness itself, present in and as all things, that is every breath taken, every word spoken, every action and outcome. It is every glass of dirty water, every glass of clear water, every mind of ignorance, and every knowing mind. There is nothing for you to ‘do’. It is all the activity of Being – just watch and marvel’.
‘How can this be?’ you inquire again; somewhat bewildered by the simply beauty and complex horror of what this means. ‘Leave behind your questions, for they are of the mind. When they arise, offer them the love, patience and compassion that is the sweetness of your own being – but do not entertain them or seek to solve them with the mind. The mind cannot understand it – the mind can but surrender.’
A warmth begins to arise in the space of your heart and a clarity beyond clarity begins to offer itself to your mind. The mind resists, but the mind is just an arising within this spacious, loving, awareness that you suddenly know yourself to be. Even the mind, as an object, is drawn into your very own Self. There is nothing apart from or separate from this vast, undifferentiated loving awareness – this sweetness.
‘Yes, now I see it – I cannot put it into words, but it is here; just at the edges of my experience – but it is no longer ‘my’ experience. I am more like an activity – the activity of being – the activity of love – the intimacy of the moment – and yet all of these words also fail to contain or capture it. Words, concepts, and ideas; models and notions – they are all just pointers toward what it truly is – and always has been.’
He smiles and nods. A tear of perfect beauty descends from one eye. ‘It will continue to deepen for you, this understanding – this knowing beyond knowing. It will reveal itself over and over again, from every imaginable angle, drawing you further and further into itself, endlessly and infinitely creative in its love for its own self, dancing as you. You are just beginning to understand. Now your real work begins.’
And with that, the man walks away. You feel no need to call out after him or to ask anything further. There is something awake and alive within you now – something that is completely aware of itself and at peace. It knows, intuitively as itself, that there is nothing to be concerned about – that everything is always perfectly as it should be – in absolute harmony with itself – with the sweetness of Being.
…and so you live your life as your life lives you – and all is always well… just as it always has been…