Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I am a river
That flows from the dawn
I am a river
That flows ever on

I am a river
That rolls to the sea
I am a river
The river is me

I am a river
I am a river
I’m a river moving through you
Flowing to your gentle hands

I am a river
I am a river
I’m a river flowing to you
Sinking deep within your sands

(-Song by Steven Mankle 1978)

It is said that a great Zen teacher asked an initiate to sit by a stream until he heard all the water had to teach. After days of bending his mind around the scene, a small monkey happened by, and in one seeming bound of joy, splashed about in the stream. The initiate wept and returned to his teacher, who scolded him lovingly, “The monkey heard. You just listened.”

With the best of intentions, we can often build false careers of studying the river without ever getting wet. In this way we can ponder great philosophy without ever telling the truth, or analyze our pain without ever feeling it, or study holy places without ever making where we live sacred. In this way we can build a cathedral on the water’s edge, spending all our time keeping it clean. We can count our money or say our prayers, without ever spending or feeling anything. In this way, we can play music or make love skillfully without ever feeling the music or our passion.

The apprentice in the story, was brought to tears because the monkey, slapping and yapping it’s way up the river, had landed in a moment of joy, the apprentice knew that all his reverence, devotion and meditation hadn’t brought him the joy of a monkey.

The river, of course, is the ongoing moment of our living. It is the current that calls us to inhabit our lives. And no matter how close we come, no matter how much we get close from staying close with a sensitive heart, nothing will open us to joy but entering the stream.

My friend and I were once on a porch near a lake, watching it rain. Suddenly, like the simple and beautiful monkey, my friend bounded up, tracked his clothes and jumped into the rain filled lake.

I watched like the apprentice, feeling the pain of always being dry, and then I shed my clothes and jumped in too.

There we were: in the center of the lake, water from above in our mouths, in our eyes, pelting us, water entering water, lives entering their living. Each pelt of rain, on us and entering the lake, uttering….joy,joy,joy.

1 comment:

Stephanie Faris said...

Your talent amazes me. This is very deep. (Okay, that sounds like a pun but it's not!)