The Lesson of the River
A broad, deep river seems able to solve the paradox of simultaneous stillness and motion. The surface of the water is still, calm, seemingly unmoving. Yet the current of the river pulses under this stillness, moving the water according to gravity, towards the sea. Does the river show us that we can get around the paradox? No, the river is always moving. Although the surface seems still to our casual glance, a closer look will reveal small sticks, and other flotsam moving with the current. At times, parts of the river move more swiftly; eddies swirl, deeper sections seem still – but the water always moves. It can do nothing else.
What lesson does this present to us? The notion of stillness, emotional and intellectual calm in the midst of the constant movement around us, is an ideal - never to be achieved, yet always yearned for. The paradox remains. Buddhist thought introduces the concept of Nirvana as the achievement of this stillness; it can be achieved only at the moment of departure from the material world.
What we can do is to develop our awareness of how our energy in motion relates to the energy in motion of others and of the material world around us. If we become more aware of our motion relative to the external world, we have the opportunity to adjust so that we are aligned in harmonious ways with what flows around us.
Awareness leads to understanding, then compassion, then acceptance. This is the path to harmony and peace. It is difficult, but achievable.
Although the paradox of stillness and movement remains, we can teach ourselves to come as close as we can to the ideal, as close as we can in the material world to which we are chained and bound.