Let the Water Come to You

Long's Peak and Mount Meeker in the distance
Yesterday I gave a talk at Unity of Fort Collins on the common thread that is shared by creativity, service, and thriving. I'll post the talk another time, but for now I want to share a parable that flew in as I was preparing.

Before the Western U.S. was settled, an explorer made his way across the plains and found himself approaching the Rocky Mountains. He'd run out of water the day before, and he was looking for a water source. As he walked he met a trapper whose canvas water bag was full to almost bursting. He asked the trapper if he wouldn't mind filling his canteen. The trapper agreed.

The explorer took a long drink of water, and he'd never tasted anything so fresh in his life. He immediately felt restored, and he asked the trapper where to find the source of the water. The trapper pointed at a faraway peak and said, "At the bottom of the highest peak there is a lake. That is the source."

The explorer expressed his thanks and started toward the peak. He wanted to be near the water's source, so he walked in the direction that the trapper had pointed. That evening he reached the top of the closest ridge. He turned to look back upon where he'd come from and he began to see the vast space of the prairie with the shadows of the mountains beginning to be cast over them. He then turned to see what would be ahead of him the next day. He saw a valley, deeper than the ridge he'd just climbed, and beyond the valley was the first set of foothills that were three times in altitude the ridge he'd just climbed.

After a deep sleep he rose early and continued his journey. The back side of the ridge was a slippery, sandy descent, and at the bottom he narrowly escaped a pit of rattlesnakes. He reached the foothills and began to climb. For the better part of the afternoon he climbed the steep hill, reaching the top as it was getting dark. Again he looked behind to where he'd come from and he marveled at how small the previous day's ridge looked from where he was now. He turned again to find that the next valley and foothills were taller and steeper.

He continued his trek for the next three days. On the third day he reached a valley that was surrounded by steep cliffs. He couldn't see a way to get down the side he was on and back up the side opposite him, so he started walking north along the top of the hill he was on. As he walked, the hill curved to his right and as he descended he came back to the prairie where he'd started.

In the distance he saw the trapper walking away. He decided to follow the trapper to ask for more water. The trapper walked toward a divide between two foothills. As the explorer got closer to the trapper, he began to hear the faint sound of rushing water. The divide was a canyon, and at the canyon mouth the trapper stopped at the river and proceeded to fill his water bag.

As the explorer reached the place where the trapper stood, he ran to the river's edge and drank deeply. It was the same cool, sweet water that he'd tasted those few days before. He turned to the trapper and asked him, "Why did you point me to the mountains in my search for this water?" The trapper said, "You asked for the source. That mountain lake is the source. I always found it easier to let the water come to me."

For years my spiritual journey was like the explorer's experience of the mountains. I'd reach a height, then go through a valley, then a height, and another valley, each one seemingly more treacherous then glorious than the last. I've searched high and low and tried many practices to reach a far off spiritual attainment, only to find frustration and defeat. At the end of that road I've been shown by many hands that the source I'm looking for is not to be found through any external pursuit. It's always and ever been within me. As I settle my mind, and rest within my own awareness, the water comes to me. The infinite well is my own beingness. Resting in this awareness, I'm replenished, and inspired, and refreshed.