There’s a metaphor that likens people to waves in the ocean: We are each a unique expression of the Oneness. But waves are short-lived and never really have to stand on their own. People, on the other hand, tend to hang around for a while. And whether we want to or not, we must learn to stand on our own two feet while we’re here.
Perhaps a better metaphor is that we’re each a container of water. Imagine scooping up a cup of ocean water for each of us and putting it in seven-or-so billion different bottles. There we are, all the same and yet seemingly all separate. Then miraculously you’d turn around and see the ocean is still full. OK, so maybe fire would make a better metaphor. But let’s keep going with the scoop of water idea for now.
Take a cup of water from any ocean, lake or river and, as any scientist can tell you, that will not be pure water. It might be relatively clean, but it won’t be pure. Likewise, we all start out with some impurities in our systems. And what we’ve come here to do is find our own impurities and filter them out.
Here the metaphor falls short, implying there’s something in our cup that’s bad and needs casting out. In fact, the “bad” in our beings is nothing other than twisted water, if you will. All our hate and anger and distorted thinking can be returned to its pure and positive state. But to do that, first we must see that there’s something amiss, some untruth in need of clearing up. Awareness then, both in the metaphor and in the meaning of our existence, is key. We must come to see what we haven’t been willing or able to look at before.
Some impurities are like the garbage floating in the ocean. They’re huge and hard to miss. But once we clear the big chunks, we’re not done. Now we get down to the bits that can only be found by feeling around. As we go along, our work will be to find what can’t be seen with the naked eye. And let’s not fool ourselves into believing that what appears invisible won’t harm us or others, for those impurities are often even more dangerous.
When we look around at all the other water bottles wandering the earth, it’s not obvious what everyone else brought in to work on. Typically, our work is not paraded on the surface like a rubber duck. No, our demons and deviations are carefully hidden inside our containers that we spend much energy to decorate and even more effort to defend.
For we all come in believing that if everyone saw what we’re really made of—not the pure water part, but the less-attractive aspects floating within our goodness—they’d reject us. Feeling rejected is also what happens when someone clanks against us with their armoring and we feel pain. For many of us, this is what happened with our parents.
Our demons and deviations are carefully hidden inside our containers that we spend much energy to decorate and even more effort to defend.
To follow this water metaphor a little further, we felt boiled, frozen or vaporized, and that hurt. So we attempted to numb ourselves to avoid such unpleasant feelings. Then we selected the weapon of our own choice—aggression, submission or withdrawal—and set about armoring ourselves against that ever happening again. Introducing the heavy-duty metal water bottle.
As we grow older, we go to war with the other water bottles of the world, and this time we intend to win. Our goal is to keep our container secure by avoiding pain at all cost. We crash and clank against all manner of people, not realizing that we’re the ones picking the fights. More than that, we don’t see it’s an illusion we were ever defeated.
Where did this idea of winning and losing come from? It arrived when we were still wee water bottles, unaware that neither boiling nor freezing nor evaporating could fundamentally harm us. In our pint-sized minds, we equated painful experiences with death, and we chose life. We opted to do whatever we had to do to avoid feeling pain which we believed had the power to annihilate us. Far too often, we still believe this to be true.
To the extent we’re still caught in duality, believing we’re separate beings who must fight against unseen forces to keep ourselves afloat above others, we continue to harden our edges and make choices that set us further adrift. In truth, our defenses aren’t what save us, they are now what sink us. For in the end, salvation comes only through connection, and yet we set ourselves up for separation.
It’s only when we start to see that everyone is being fueled by the same unseen forces of negativity—forces that push us to withhold or to do and say the very things that take us further from the truth of who we are—that we will put down our weapons and start searching for similarities. When we look for the light, we begin to see that we’re all originally of the same pure essence. Winning, if there is such a thing, means reuniting. Unity, then, is the name of the true game. Conquering is not the way home.
Winning, if there is such a thing, means reuniting. Unity, then, is the name of the true game.
This means that none of us can be fully happy sitting in fetid water lobbing mud-balls at those we perceive to be our enemies. In truth, those are the ones who are pointing the way for us. They’re showing us where our work is. Because what we see in someone else’s cloudy container is only a reflection of the impurities in our own unclean being.
Really and truly, the faults of others only get to us when there’s a corresponding element of the same in us. And we will never clarify our own situation by focusing on their faulty vessel. More to the point, our work is not to clean up anyone else’s distortions , but rather to concentrate on our own.
Trouble is, we often don’t realize our own vessel of water is dirty until we notice that someone else’s needs a wash. It’s all too common, however, that instead of cleaning our inner waters, we point our blaming fingers at them and set to work on shoring up our outer appearances. We scrub away at our defenses and work to cover over our unattractive parts.
We slip on a mask the way you’d slide a koozie over a bottle or can. Perhaps we’ll opt for a Power Mask, sharpening our tongue until it cuts like a knife. Our goal will be to out-tsunami our opponents with our control and manipulation. Or maybe we’ll go for a Love Mask, dulling our sense of self until we’re a wet dishrag. Our goal will be to force compliance by faking surrender. Of course, neither of these is a clean way to interact. And when they don’t work, we head for a Serenity Mask; we make like a tree and leave. The lights are on but we’re not home.
As for our containers themselves, we often all but destroy them, feeding them garbage and still expecting they’ll never fail. When they do spring a leak, we patch them up and keep going, seldom connecting our physical condition to the effect poisoned water has on the materials holding it. We pour acid inside and are surprised when the walls corrode.
Once we start to clarify our inner selves, our waters will return to their natural free-flowing, light-filled state. When that happens, we will no longer feel we have something to hide. On the contrary, we will organically want to connect with the free and clear aspects of everyone else. As such, our containers will become more transparent. We will feel lighter, brighter and more free, no longer expending precious energy to conceal our flaws.
Our impurities are not our true nature, but they’re what rise to the surface for us to see and change.
The problem with metaphors is that at some point they all break down. They are, after all, not the real thing. Ironically, metaphors themselves are a good analogy for what it means to be human. For our original essence is pure, while our human form is not. What we often see when we look at each other then is not the real thing. Our impurities are not our true nature, but they’re what rise to the surface for us to see and change.
Everyone’s work then is essentially the same: it is to become cleaner and clearer. If we hold our feet to the fire of doing the work of healing and growing, we’ll discover that we really are made of holy water. What we fear will burn us—letting go of inner burdens—is what will transform us back into what we’ve always been: pure beings of love and light.
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