Rather than you moving through life, what if it was life that was moving through you?
You see, we often think of ourselves as human beings moving linearly through time. Our past is behind us, while the future is ahead. Life, the world, everything around us, is still, while we move through it and try to influence it.
But what if it were the other way around? What if we, at our core, were always still and unchanged, while life was what passed by?
Imagine you're on the brink of a river, still, as the water of life flows by...
Every moment, the river brings new experiences to your feet. Some things are pleasant, some are more violent. Certain experiences come and go as quickly as a floating leaf. Others seem to stay for quite some time, perhaps even years.
Just about everything on the river changes as the water brings new adventures, every one of which calls for your involvement. Whether it asks you to help it, admire it, or simply let it pass by, it's always inviting you to participate in its energy.
Sometimes, you're able to influence the conditions so that they leave you different - hopefully better - than when they found you. But most things are simply out of your reach.
You may be thinking, "sure, it would be nice if life actually felt like this, but it doesn't. Life is hard. It's a struggle."
It doesn't always feel like we're calmly sitting on the brink of a river, shielded from the dangers that might come along.
Unfortunately for us, the ones watching, we can't seem to keep our attention on the water that's flowing by. Instead, we get so preoccupied with waters that are long gone, and ones that have not arrived yet.
Why is this?
It wasn't always this way. In the beginning, before our birth, we had no trouble with the river. We were simply one with everything, and didn't have a mind trying to convince us otherwise.
But as soon as we were placed on the brink of the river, our consciousness saw this as foreign territory, and decided to take refuge in whatever it could. From the moment we were born, we saw the outside world as a scary and confusing place, leaving us with little knowledge of how to make sense of it.
When unpleasant things started to pass by us, our natural reaction was to pull back to try to avoid them. We didn't know that discomfort was okay to feel, so we did what we could to keep it away. That meant looking upstream trying to anticipate any impending danger, and then avoiding it as it came close.
Likewise, when pleasant things flowed by, we got involved. Not only that, but we couldn't let the experiences go. As they passed by and were no longer happening in the present moment, we began to look downstream, into the past, because we didn't want those beautiful experiences to end. Since they physically passed by already, all we could do was grasp mentally and keep our eyes on them.
With all this looking upstream and downstream, we now find ourselves completely neglecting the present, which is really all we ever have.
We end up getting so caught up in not wanting to experience some things on the river while needing to experience other things, that our experience of the only real thing - what's in front of us - is completely obscured by our fears and desires.
And then there's you.
Amidst the never-ending change of life - the water flowing by - you're the only thing that remains still, watching it all pass. This is perhaps the most important thing to know.
If we think about the nature of a river, we understand that everything that passes by is temporary. And yet you, the watcher, are the only thing that remains still. This is important to remember, both during pleasant and unpleasant times.
In your life, you could imagine every moment unfolding in front of you as the river passing by.
Do you spend your time looking upstream for protection? There's no need, since you're not in the water. If a lion actually comes by, you will know, and you will do your best to move yourself to another safe place along the river.
The vast majority of our struggle does not come from real physical threats, but from perceived psychological threats in the water of life. For those threats, we don't have to move our bodies to safety. We have to recognize where, and who we are in relation to them.
We are still, unchanging, witnessing the ever-changing conditions of life. We are not in the river. We are observing the river, and have the ultimate gift of participating in the flow of life.
Live with substance!