Living Like Water
One who lives in accordance with nature does not go against the way of things. He moves in harmony with the present moment, always knowing the truth of just what to do.
~~Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching, 8th Verse
Water is a commonly used metaphor in one of my favorite spiritual paths, the Tao te Ching. It symbolizes fluidity, gentleness and strength. When we’re free to flow as water, we’re more apt to align with our inner guidance. Yet, in our culture, living like water can be very challenging. Woody Allen is credited with saying, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Our need to stay busy, busy, busy, limits our ability to be fully present.
A few days ago, some of my own plans were put to the test. While waiting for my next meeting, I decided to take a walk along the beach in a nearby seaside town. As I made my way to the shoreline, I looked down and saw a young pelican sitting on a sidewalk. It wasn’t moving, just sitting there looking sleepy. A sheriff was talking to a woman about it so I assumed it was being tended to.
Fifteen minutes later, as I walked back to my car, the baby pelican was still there. No sheriff this time, just the water bird. Looking down at the winged creature, I realized it needed tending to, although exactly what it needed, I didn’t know. I was at a crossroads; I could either continue with my busy day—or—I could try to help the prehistoric-looking creature in front of me.
How many times do we encounter something or someone that is in need of assistance yet look the other way? Sometimes it’s because we don’t know what to do or we don’t believe we have the time. It seems easier to hope that someone else will deal with it.
Living like water teaches us not only how to be in the flow of life, but how to focus our attention where it’s most needed. So I picked up my phone and called the local marine and wildlife centers. “Yes,” they said as they answered my call, “we’ve received several calls about the same pelican (apparently she had been sitting on the sidewalk for two days). “Unfortunately, we cannot pick her up. Can you bring her to us?”
“Straight away,” I said, not having a clue as to how I would transport a pelican in my two seated sports car. But as soon as I committed to rescuing “Pella” (short for pelican), help arrived. (Later, I discovered that “Pella” is an ancient Greek name meaning a “defensible citadel on a cliff.”) Within minutes, a woman walked by and asked, “Is there anything I can do?”
“Yes,” I quickly replied, “I need a box.” She set off and promptly returned with a box the perfect size for Pella. As she sat the box down, a young British couple stopped to observe the feeble pelican and kindly said, “I have a pocket knife and can cut a hole big enough for her beak if you’d like.” Brilliant.
Removing a towel from the trunk of my car, I gently placed it around Pella’s beak. She was so weak that she barely resisted. I carefully placed her in the box and set her on my passenger seat. I securely held the box in place and with my right hand as I shifted my 5-speed manual transmission with my left hand. Forty-five minutes later we arrived at the shelter and Pella joined thirty other juvenile pelicans being treated for starvation.
In the book Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life Dr. Wayne Dyer discusses the teachings of the Tao and states: “When you’re free to flow like water, you’re free to communicate naturally—information is exchanged, and knowledge advances in a way that benefits everyone.” Lesson 100 in A Course in Miracles echoes the same truth in a different manner: “You are essential to Love’s [God’s] plan. You are Love’s [His] messenger today. And you must find what Love [He] would have you give.”
Living like water doesn’t mean that we don’t keep a schedule or we won’t be productive. Rather, it entails being fully present, remaining fluid and flexible to what most needs our attention. After rescuing Pella, I felt a sense of fulfillment from choosing to follow the natural flow of life. I not only knocked off all the “to do’s” from my list that day, I also fell asleep that night feeling inspired and aligned with a higher purpose.
Today I invite you to lay aside your ideas about how your day should flow. Practice keeping an open mind and heart as you encounter every situation. May you allow Love to guide your vision in every decision you make today.