The Stream of Life

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The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth
in numberless blades of grass
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

– Rabindranath Tagore

The days of sultry summer have begun to vanish like forgotten promises, and although they seem to swiftly fade, my heart still clings to the hope that some remnant of their charm and character will be sustained as the seasons change. Yesterday morning, after an extended period of work to generate income, I stepped out into the blossoming light of day, hoping to absorb some of this essential life-affirming light, to infuse my heart and soul with its gifts, since several cups of coffee in the cool morning air had little or no discernible effect. In spite of our best efforts at times, it can still feel as if someone pulled the plug, and somehow drained all the energy out of the world. Even after several hours of quiet solitude, I still seemed to need more. This morning, I lay in bed as the sun rose to fullness, slipping back and forth between awareness and sleep. Something was different. My heart felt lighter. I lingered as long as I could in this state, before finally rising to meet the day.

The significance of my half-conscious state, drifting in and out of consciousness, is beginning to coalesce within me, and my mind seemed to clear a bit, as my heart opened to the gifts imparted by my vigil in the morning light. The tasks that are ahead for me in the days to come seem daunting, but I know there is a connection to the stream of life available to me. The opening to the stream has always been there, since my days as a child, and the realization came to me again this morning in the form of a daydream while reflecting on my life as a young boy. Many of those moments were spent in a similar condition of solitude, and as I contemplated the opening to the stream of life that I was feeling today, it provoked a vivid memory of the very same feeling I experienced as a child.

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Even though I wasn’t consciously thinking about my youthful reveries, the recognition of the feeling was unmistakeable. We can think about breathing sometimes and can alter it to a degree deliberately with effort, but thankfully it occurs most often without conscious intervention. We actually have the ability to temporarily affect the functioning of our normally involuntary responses while conscious, but nature has seen to it that the really important stuff is maintained even when we are unconscious. Our conscious minds are constantly reviewing such an array of different thoughts, that sheer volume of neural firing at times can be overwhelming without some effort to focus them. In the twilight world of slowly coming to consciousness in the morning, or whenever we are waking up from sleep or unconsciousness, the pace is usually stepped down to allow something that has been trying to come up, to finally rise. What follows is some of what rose up from within me this morning:

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“I can sense the power behind my heartbeat. As fragile as our humanity can sometimes be, as tenuous and uncertain as life can be, there is also a truly awesome power that drives us. We witness it in the flurry of events on our planet each day. We see it in the fleeting moments of our lives.

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We see it in the faces of children. We sense it strongly in times of great anxiety, and great joy. We can feel it and sense it and see it with every breath–every miraculous breath. Since we only get a limited number of breaths, each one is a gift. Even if that breath is labored or painful due to some malady, by virtue of its limited duration, and its ability to sustain our lives, it is nothing less than a miracle. The power of the heartbeat, the necessity of air, the way we struggle when it comes with difficulty, are all indications of the spirit of life–the unseen world which has a causal effect on the seen. It is not detectable through any scientific experiment or proof, nor can logic, or reasoning, or technology reveal it. Without it, nothing lives.

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Something has been stirring within me these past few weeks. It contains both anticipation of new experience and a degree of anxiety produced by the uncertainty of it all. Generally, I tend to look forward to new experience, but in this case, the uncertainty finds me feeling puzzled. The weight of these considerations has led me to suspend my response to them repeatedly, but in my unguarded moments during the everyday routines, I can feel them pressing me forward, and my desire to make progress and to unravel the mysteries eventually wins out. Everything within me points in the direction of engaging my longings, and everything outside of me points toward pressing myself toward the future. It is unclear to me whether these are complementary urges or opposite inclinations, but the chaos within is contrasted by the beauty of the world around me, leaving me somewhat uncertain just how to feel. Thankfully, as I paused today amidst the chaos, I was able to marvel at the splendor of the changing season against a brilliant blue sky. I inhaled deeply in the afternoon air, with gentle sunlight on my face, and for a few moments, I forgot all about the uncertainty.

Swishing my feet through the ankle deep golden leaves as I walked along the path home each day as a child is one of my fondest memories of those days, and I distinctly remember collecting the most beautiful leaves I encountered along the way and bringing them home with me. When I look out on the changing leaves today, I briefly close my eyes and swish my feet through the memories of those days, forever locked in my heart and mind, and contemplate the feeling in this moment now, and how it is that we arrive at a place where we can open to the stream of life.

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