May 5 – Our Essential Clearness – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Like clouds moving in water, problems make me forget I am clear. 

Water reflects everything it encounters. This is so commonplace that we think water is blue, when, in fact, it has no colour. Amazingly, while soft and flowing, water – as ocean or lake or even as the smallest puddle of rain, takes on the image of the entire world without ever losing its essential clearness.

Of course, it is not so easy to for us. As emotional beings, we are constantly losing ourselves in the image of everything we experience. But, none the less, the nature of water can help us understand our very human struggles.

I began, like so many of us, in a household where it was somehow my job to be the lightning rod for the family’s tensions of unexpressed emotion. In this way, I learned to be a problem solver, a rescuer, a caretaker. Through two marriages and countless friendships, I loved by taking on the clouded emotions of those I loved.

The tension of other people’s unexpressed emotions kept me from feeling my own depth and clarity. My life became one of turbulence, always struggling to keep my head above the cloudy surface.

But the water, the glorious water everywhere, has taught me that we are more than what we reflect or love. This is the work of compassion: to embrace everything clearly without imposing who we are and without losing who we are.

It is, to be sure, an endless and impossible task. But, though we can never be as clear as water, it helps to remember that while the very real problems we face are the living things we must handle, they are not the essential current of our lives. Beneath the clouds, water desires only to flow, and beneath our tensions and problems, the human spirit wants only to embrace and soften.

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