Last night at my meditation group we read a passage from Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind* called Nirvana And The Waterfall. Suzuki presents an image of a waterfall at Yosemite National Park:
The highest one there is 1,340 feet high, and from it the water comes down like a curtain thrown from the top of the mountain. It does not seem to come down swiftly, as you might expect; it seems to come down very slowly because of the distance. And the water does not come down as one stream, but is separated into many tiny streams. From a distance it looks like a curtain. And I thought it must be a very difficult experience for each drop of water to come down from the top of such a high mountain. It takes time, you know, a long time, for the water finally to reach the bottom of the waterfall. And it seems to me that our human life may be like this. We have many difficult experiences in our life. But at the same time, I thought, the water was not originally separated, but was one whole river. Only when it is separated does it have some difficulty in falling. It is as if the water does not have any feeling when it is one whole river. Only when separated into many drops can it begin to have or to express some feeling.
-Suzuki, Shunryu; David Chadwick (2011-03-10). Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (pp. 82-83). Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.
I was reading the passage out loud to the group and it almost brought me to tears. It touched me in such a profound and beautiful way. I love this metaphor, that our lives are the water droplets falling, violently it seems, down a waterfall. Feeling each rock we hit as we fall. There is some peace in knowing the reality which is that we are also the river. Water is water, whether is it flowing calmly down the river, or separated into droplets falling down the side of the mountain. When the droplets find the bottom of the cliff they are the river again.
We are all connected to each other. We are one with each other. We are all falling down this waterfall together. This is a comforting thought. One that I know deep down inside, but it is nice to be reminded of it. And in beautiful ways such as this waterfall metaphor.
Yesterday I was driving home from a meeting in Portland. I haven’t been able to sleep for a few weeks and I think I reached a point of complete exhaustion. I was thinking about my troubles and my worries and about the very emotional weekend I had just gone through. I was driving through a rural area along the Clackamas River and it reminded me of the week before Doug died. There was something about where I was that caused me to make a decision about my life at that moment. I decided to just not give a fuck. And by that I mean I decided to let go of the stuff I have no control over. Which is pretty much everything. What I can focus on is what is right in front of me at this moment. That is really all I have.
I am the water droplet falling down the side of the mountain. I can panic and flail about and freak out. Or I can enjoy the ride down knowing that I am not the only water droplet in the waterfall.
*If you are interested in Buddhism and have never read Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, I would encourage you to run out to your nearest library and check it out. You might actually even want to buy it because it is one of these books you will want to read again and again.