A teacher in the Diamond Approach, my spiritual path, recently asked a group of us to imagine a stream dancing in the sunlight. Immediately my mind began bouncing to images of Rock Creek near Moose Camp, to Tattler Creek in Denali National Park, to a small nameless creek I sat beside in the Tetons. I could see that light sparkling in them, hear the water gurgling, sense the happiness that filled me.
“What is the difference between that stream and say, and water running in a pipe?” he asked. There was a pause, then one of my classmates called out, “The rocks!”
“Yes,” he said. “The rocks. The things that are obstacles, the limitations. That is what gives the stream the life it has, and supports life.” He went on to suggest that it is the same with our lives; it is our limitations that actually make us human beings, that make us a living stream. When I heard those words, I felt a deep relaxation in my body. Like an inner sigh of letting go.
I’ve spent a lifetime working on my limitations–becoming aware of them, changing my habits, getting educated about them, developing life practices that would hopefully relieve me of them. “Relieve” is a good word to use because my limitations felt like a huge burden to haul around on my road to supposed perfection. While I don’t think all limitations are set in stone, especially my subjective limitations, and that they can change and develop over time, this teaching is a good balance to my constant “trying” to be better. Like the joy and contentment I feel by a sparkling stream full of rocks, I sense the joy there could be in just telling the Truth of who I am and how I am in the present without efforting to be what I’m not right now. There’s accepting and adapting and being kind to myself while being aware of my limitations. Just being a human being. Listening carefully within myself for what can change and what cannot change. Listening for the life that comes with my limitations and makes me who I am right Now– without judgment.
The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to the our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
Wendell Berry, Collected Poems