Becoming a believer is a little like standing on the shore of a massive lake. The lake is vast, dark, mysterious, intimidating. We long for joy, contentment, peace as we gaze across the lake to the other side. We have been promised, if we reach that shoreline, we will find all the things for which we are looking. It is a promise of freedom. Freedom of enlightenment, of independence and knowledge. We believe, if we can only cross the lake, we will find our True Selves along that coast. We look around and see pebbles and begin throwing one after another into the lake. We’ve been told, and we believe, these will create a bridge and we can step across to the other side. We toss in large smooth pebbles and small gravely ones. Some glitter like diamonds and some have complex and intricate designs.
Others give us pebbles promising each will be the One Pebble that will be enough on which to cross the lake. So we throw them in, only to see each sink to the bottom. We even drag a large boulder to the edge, rolling it to the shoreline. We sweat, toil, work and strain and finally push it over the edge, confident all our work will finally bring about the bridge that will allow us to walk to the other side. We watch the stone roll slowly into the water, bubble beneath the surface and then sink out of sight.
If we look closely at the rocks we see words etched into them. One with a particularly elaborate design says “Education.” A simple, but luminous one has written on it “self-help.” A large boulder has slashed across it “Religion.” We sit down heavily on the edge of the lake, tears of frustration on our cheeks and stare longingly across to the distant shoreline. Then we look down into the dark water. Entirely calm. Perfectly still. But we are frightened by the fathomless depth. What we can’t see. What we don’t know.
We have heard stories about those who have waded out into the waters, swimming to the very center. We’ve even seen some who have suddenly jumped in headlong, diving beneath the surface. They look silly. Like drowning fools. But these people come back to shore laughing, singing, dancing. Their faces shine with the peace and joy we so desperately desire. But the water is impossibly deep and utterly dark and frighteningly unknown. So we fix our eyes back to the far shore. We scoop up a handful of pebbles and toss them in. As always expecting a footpath to develop. As always, bitterly disappointed.
One day a man sits down next to us on the shoreline. He begins to explain about the lake. That it is really crystal clear. It is the source of all joy, all contentment, all peace. We peek doubtfully into the inky waters and draw back. He then explains the only way to truly know the water’s character is to enter the water for ourselves. We look into the man’s eyes and though we are still fearful we choose to believe his words. He stands and offers his hand. We hesitate a moment, glancing to the other shoreline. We start to wonder if the pebbles we’ve been tossing in, and the hope that they will create a bridge to the other side, is a farce. In fact, from where we sit we can’t really even see the other side clearly. We don’t know exactly what is there. We look back to the man who is smiling patiently with his hand held out. We finally put our hand in his and allow him to pull us up and lead us to the water’s edge. He laughs joyously as he steps onto the water and we can’t help laughing too. Then we take our first step into the vaste lake.
Instantly the darkness disappears and we realize the water is not murky at all. Though infinitely deep, we can see all the way to the bottom. The man, whose hand we are still holding is walking along the top of the water, and we are walking with him. After a few more steps we can no longer see him but we can feel him all around us, filling us with courage. We wade a little further and find the water to be neither warm nor cold, both wet and dry. In a fit of utter abandonment we plunge beneath the surface, and find we can breathe deep. We can swim to the depths, splash and play at the shallows or float in complete contentment on the serene surface. The water is still mysterious. We cannot entirely understand its properties. But here we are, swimming in it nonetheless. And we find we don’t care to understand it all. The happiness it brings is enough. We hear the man’s infectious laugh all around us and we laugh with him. The lake holds both clear boundaries and complete freedom. While the waters carry us, protect us and fill us, we swim, dive and float in every way that brings complete fulfillment.
Before long we pull ourselves back to the shoreline. We look across the water and for the first time we see the far side is not a beach at all. It is empty space. An opening into nothingness. We step out of the lake, the water still on our skin, and go back to our jobs, our families, our lives. The feeling of the water lingers. However, as time passes, dry air evaporates some of the moisture. A storm comes along and washes some of it off. We return and swim in the lake and saturate our skin once again. We know we can do this anytime we no longer feel the water clinging to us.
We are so excited about what the lake does, what the lake is, we bring others to the shore. We see in their faces the same uncertainty and disbelief we once had. Some laugh at us, some sneer, some just shrug their shoulders and toss in a handful of pebbles. But there are some who see the man who walks on water and bravely take his hand. They join us and we swim together, laughing, singing, floating.
Sometimes, though, we forget and go to the lake and start throwing the pebbles in again, thinking there is still another side we should try and reach to find happiness. This especially happens when we’ve stayed away from the lake for too long. There are times when others need to remind us there really is no other side. When we finally look into the clear waters and wade out just a little it all comes flooding back. The lake is enough. The lake is everything.