This morning the wind and rain continue here in the islands of the south coast of British Columbia. It has been a wet fall and winter – perhaps the wettest since the time of the Flood stories – and this is the coldest May we’ve had for a long time, which brings its own hazards. It’s all down to an extended La Nina event that pipes cool water into the north Pacific and keeps the air masses cold and turbulent, resulting in reliable patterns of convection, instability and therefore precipitation and windy weather weather.
I live in a very rainy part of the world, and so to really love living here, one has to love the rain. This morning as I took my coffee to sit by the sea, I was struck by just how immersed I was in water. The sea of course, which bathes the shoreline and brings all kind of nutrients into our inlet. The creek beside me, channelling the rain from the mountain into the bay, delivering different nutrients back to the shore line. The rain that was falling into my coffee cup, spattering against my hood. And my breath, precipitating in small clouds that echoed their larger cousins across the channel, covering the mountains on the mainland. An entire symphony of sound all played on the same instrument.
For me, actually, water is my favourite image of God. If you are a spiritual or religious person, your engagement with the Divine is of course fraught with reductionist peril. As Lao Tzu wrote in the very first line of a book about the Tao, “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.” It’s a disclaimer. He says, “look, everything I am about to write here isn’t the things I am actually writing about, so take that under advisement.” One must be very cautious talking about images of God, the Creator, the Divine. Every name severly limits your experience of that which you are trying to talk about. Whatever name or image you have is like trying to watch Barcelona FC play through a tiny keyhole, in the outside door of the Camp Nou.
And yet, the image that works best for me is “water.” It brings life, and it can sweep it away. It can induce terror and soothe the soul. One can go for a hair raising boat trip from which you barely escape alive and then heal yourself with a soothing cup of tea and a bath. Water also has a characteristic of non-duality which gives it an important characteristic as it relates to my spiritual practice. As our atmosphere is made of water vapour, and so are we, it is true to say that “I am in the water and the water is in me.”
To end, here is a poem by William Stafford that I used in our fifth Complexity from the Inside Out course this morning, borrowed from a blog post by my buddy Tenneson. It points towards this non-dual whole I am talking about.
Being a Person
Be a person here. Stand by the river, invoke
the owls. Invoke winter, then spring.
Let any season that wants to come here make its own
call. After that sound goes away, wait.
A slow bubble rises through the earth
and begins to include sky, stars, all space,
even the outracing, expanding thought.
Come back and hear the little sound again.
Suddenly this dream you are having matches
everyone’s dream, and the result is the world.
If a different call came there wouldn’t be any
world, or you, or the river, or the owls calling.
How you stand here is important. How you
listen for the next things to happen. How you breathe.