“Why does water flow downhill, Teacher?” I asked.
We were sitting by a mountain brook, having hiked our way up here.
It was a warm day and I was grateful for the rest-stop beside this beautiful bubbling stream. The clear water was making its way around the many rocks in the river bed, some large, many small, several huge boulders bigger than me.
I wondered idly how the big boulders had gotten there.
The meadow where we sat was dotted with wildflowers here and there. The grasses were long and lush and, I was sure, would be wonderful to cool my feet in.
Naturally, Teacher had gone barefoot as soon as we sat. I kept my shoes on as there were also quite a lot of prickly leaves and razor-sharp blades I did not want to expose my skin to.
Teacher sat in silence for a while soaking up the sensations of this tiny meadow in the rugged cut of the mountains.
No breeze was blowing here. The heat of the sun beat down unhindered on the grasses, creating a steamy smell of water-logged vegetation.
I listened to the sound of the stream as I waited for Teacher to respond. The noise of the gurgling water was like an echo of time — time flowing over a riverbed of stones ten thousand years old.
“Before you became my Apprentice,” said Teacher, ”what answer would you have expected to your question? Why would you say that water flows downhill?”
“Gravity,” I said.
Teacher nodded, watching a small white butterfly as it fluttered its way from one wild flower to another.
“But you expect a different answer now?”
“Yes,” I said.
I tried to gather my thoughts and feelings, to explain why I believed my answer would be different now.
“I’m not denying the part gravity is playing here,” I began, “But, why is there an ‘uphill’ and a ‘downhill’ in the first place? We could just as easily exist in a Reality that is perfectly flat, and one without all of these prickly plants in the grass, but we don’t”.
Teacher smiled at that.
I continued, “The energy-consciousness of the things that co-create this world with me — the water, the mountains — have height as well as width and depth. There is ‘up’ as well as ‘down’. And, within that, water is choosing to flow down.
“I can certainly imagine a parallel universe where water would flow uphill. But here, in this Reality, it doesn’t. It flows down.”
What point was I trying to make? Teacher was waiting patiently. Clearly, I was over-complicating this as I tried to get to the core of what I was asking.
I continued, now somewhat frustrated. “We chose to stop here. Or, rather, you suggested that we did. And within all of this natural beauty, the thing I do not understand is why water flows downhill.”
“You understand everything else you see here?” asked Teacher.
I knew this question was another test.
“I feel that this meadow… exists as a… a community,” I answered, haltingly. A fly landed on my shoe. I swatted it away.
“But the stream… while it’s a part of this community, and even lets this community thrive here, it’s… it’s really just passing through”.
“As are we,” Teacher pointed out.
“Yes. As are we,” I agreed.
“And you are identifying more with the stream,” asked Teacher, “than with the community of the meadow?”
I took a sharp breath. I realised where my own question was coming from. It was nothing to do with uphills and downhills and gravity. That was just a surface question, a “veil” as Teacher would call it. It clothed a deeper, more profound question about myself that I needed to know.
A lesson was being prepared.
“Yes,” I replied, finally realising that indeed I was.
But, why was I identifying with the water of the stream and not with anything else?
I had been feeling no small amount of irritation towards this ‘community of the meadow’. The sun was too warm for what I was wearing, and the lack of a breeze made the heat even worse. I wanted to take my shoes off to cool down, but the place was too full of things that would prick my feet as soon as I spread out my toes. I was also afraid that the wasp I saw flying about was going to fly over and sting me. Just for fun.
Once again, I realised that I had not been listening to my inner feelings and questioning why I felt the way I did.
Teacher must say a thousand times a day that I should trust my feelings: “They are the signposts in the journey of your life.”
I shook my head. Why couldn’t I ever get what Teacher was trying to show me without having to hit me over the head with it?
So, what were my inner feelings? I took a few breaths to centre myself and slowly allowed the sensations of the meadow to wash over me — the sights, the sounds, the smells… the energies.
I began to understand that, within the many irritations of the meadow, only the water was soothing to me. The only thing I felt positive about was the stream passing through here. It was the stream that was prompting a question I needed to answer!
I looked again at the water bubbling around the rocks of the riverbed.
As I watched, I realised that the water always went around the stones, around the obstacles in its path.
Where the rocks stuck out of the stream, this behaviour was obvious. I could see the ripples created as the water struck each bolder in its path. These ripples — these liquid vibrations — also vibrated the air, creating the bubbling, gurgling sounds I was hearing. A symphony of impacts between water and stone.
I also knew that under the surface of the stream the water was impacting the smaller stones and pebbles of the riverbed. These vibrations were lost to my ear under the body of the stream, but I could see ripples here and there, manifesting at the water’s surface.
Yet the rocks did not stop the water. The water in the stream continued to flow… downhill.
“The water is taking the path of least resistance,” I said, finally.
“Perhaps,” replied Teacher. “But there is also a deeper understanding here for you.”
I looked over at Teacher. A “deeper understanding”?
I turned my gaze back to the water. I knew that this was true. I was here for a reason. I was here to understand something about myself. But what?
I allowed my eyes to follow the stream as it made its way down the mountainside. The stream disappeared from view around a bend in the meadow, but I knew that it would be carrying on it’s journey out of my sight.
I imagined what that journey would be. It would continue to flow down the mountain, attracted from its origin to… I realised… to it’s destination.
It would be moved by its own momentum around the obstacles along its way. It would eventually meet other streams on their own paths, joining with them to form a river — a huge river that would become an energy-consciousness manifested. As the power of the river increased, it would become less and less troubled by the obstacles in its path. Indeed, it could even move most obstacles out of its way as it continued to flow as a united force. Eventually, the water of this little mountain stream would reach the sea, the most powerful entity on our planet.
I smiled at this perfect little stream and all that it represented.
I noticed now how strong this little river was. I could see that the rocks both in its path and forming its riverbed — the obstacles before it — were rounded and smooth, worn by the action of their meeting.
Yes, the water took the path of least resistance, but not without removing that resistance bit by bit. Those huge boulders would eventually be worn down to larger stones, then to pebbles, to gravel, to dust, eventually to nothing, all because the water continued to flow, to move, to strive, towards its destination.
What obstacles was I putting in the way of my own life? I could see now that I believed such obstacles (my ‘rocks’) to be so solid and unyielding that I would decide to stop moving towards my goals.
Yet, I could see that, if I just kept moving – flowing – towards my destination, then even the largest of these obstacles would be worn away. They would be turned to dust.
“The natural order of All Things,” said Teacher, startling me out of my thoughts, “is to move towards the Positive. But, in our lifetimes here, there will also be obstacles in its path.
“Your Reality belongs to you. You may choose to manifest as you wish. However, these obstacles will be real and will hinder you. You must realise that they are of your own creation and can be worn away by your willingness to allow your life to flow.”
“So, I should take the path of least resistance?” I asked.
“No,” replied Teacher, ”You should choose the path you desire to follow, regardless of what you see in your way. “
“But,” said Teacher, “it is you who makes that path an easy one or a hard one.”
As if to illustrate a point, Teacher threw a twig into the water. I watched it being carried by the flow of the stream until it got caught on some stones sticking out above the surface.
“It is natural to equate a path of least resistance with taking an ‘easy’ path. Perhaps it is not one with as joyful a journey, but many believe that mundaneness is the price they are obliged to pay,” said Teacher.
“But a life of mundaneness is no less a life without obstacles. For those walking the ‘path of least resistance’, there are usually more obstacles to deal with because they do not remove them. The obstacles to continue to exist, which will block their way yet again and force them to go in directions they do not wish to go, usually to face yet another obstacle.
“They do not navigate around them. They allow the obstacles to set the course of their life.
“The ‘path of least resistance’ is, in truth, a hard path to take, not an easy one.
“What they fail to see, Apprentice,” said Teacher, “is that it is easy to create a ‘hard’ life, but it is hard to create an ‘easy’ one.”
I blinked, confused.
Teacher continued, “It takes effort — an effort of will — to see past the obstacles and move towards achieving the goals you have set for yourself.”
Teacher looked at me directly, pressing home the point. “It takes active intent to navigate such blockages, and an active intent to allow the natural flow towards the Positive, to fulfill the life that you desire.”
Teacher gestured back towards the bubling stream. “The stream here represents the flow of life towards its ultimate fulfillment; the flow to the Positive. It is a natural movement, pulled by — as you surmised when we arrived — pulled by forces great than itself.
“The flow is inevitable. It travels downhill with ease, not uphill with effort.
“The flow is unstoppable. This little stream will arrive at the sea at some point in its existence.”
Teacher contemplated for a moment, then continued. “That twig there, stuck against the rocks, represents you. You see currently obstacles as bigger and more powerful than the natural force that flows around them.”
“Challenges in life are never consciously planned, but your next step is.
“If you resolve to take that step, to put even a metaphorical toe into the flow, those natural forces will carry you forward to your intended destination — the inevitable, unstoppable, flow to the Positive.”
I don’t know how Teacher does it but, with those last few words, the force of water caught a protruding end of the twig and freed it from its rocky trap. It raced off further downstream and around the bend, out of sight.
“This stream does not worry about the obstacles in its path,” said Teacher, “but learns of its own power with every rock, every obstacle, that it encounters. By continuing to move, the water has the power to reduce every obstacle of every size to a point where it simply doesn’t matter anymore in the pursuit of its goal. Flow is action.
“If the stream stagnates, forming puddles in the mud, its power to remove obstacles will be gone. Instead, it is the water itself that will disappear, evaporate.”
I realised, as Teacher and I prepared to leave this amazing meadow, what I needed to do to reach my own goals in life.
It is what I most want to tell you too, my dearest kin: The natural flow of life is always towards the Positive unless you refuse to navigate the obstacles in your way.
To flow is to remain ‘actively passive’ in trusting that all obstacles will be removed naturally by that flow, forever diminishing their power.
I learned this lesson from a beautiful mountain stream on its way to the sea.