Streaming thoughts – the leaf and the stick

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I was out for a walk recently in the woods and came across a small babbling brook. I sat there on the banks and rested my feet and my mind. Through the leaves of the trees, the sun was poking through and the water danced its path through the carved trail it had made. The rocks were smooth by the constant flowing of the water. The sound of the stream was comforting as it enveloped me into its hypnotic almost rhythm. Just sit, listen and breathe. There was nothing else I needed to do except have my streaming thoughts.

In this state, you start to think and there is an inner battle of wills. Part of the mind says that you have seen and experienced and time to get up and move on, things need to be done. The other part says, sit and experience a while longer…take a few more minutes to relax the mind. It is a constant struggle because we feel the urge to ‘do’ but we also need time to ‘think’. When you calm the mind, it seems to open up the world that is there yet we do not see. We are in a constant rush and our mind is trying to keep pace. We miss the obvious…the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Let me share an example. While seated on the banks of this serene place, a leaf floated by bobbing up and down. The stream carried the leaf carefully between the rocks and at times, when the stream narrowed, the leaf traveled faster, when it came to a pool area, the leaf swirled around and around and danced a while until it was pulled to a current that carried it forward once again until it vanished out of sight. A few minutes later, I saw a small twig going down the same stream and it was carried along. It tried to dance the same dance as the leaf but its make-up was not as flexible as the leaf, it eventually got caught up on some rocks and teetered back and forth and not able to move forward. My thoughts on this related to life on two fronts.

First, if you are a leaf, you are more flexible and designed to make your way around. You are able to bend and light enough to maneuver between the rocks. Being a stick, you are more rigid in your ways and while more stable, you are confined to where and how you might go. The leaf is less likely to get stuck in a place because it is able to change directions based on the stream and uses the water to guide it. The stick on the other hand, is constrained by the rocks and the path it takes. It is not flexible and willing to bend so it can get stuck. As in life, there are times we are a stick and caught up in our life that we remain. If the leaf gets stuck somewhere, it has a greater chance of moving again because it can rely on the water or a strong breeze.

Second, in both these cases, we have let the stream decide our path. Both objects can not steer or maneuver. Both are on a journey that is out of their control. If they do get stuck, they have to let the environment free them when the river rises. Everything is decided for them. While the leaf may be more flexible and agile, it still can not form its own path. That can be our life as well. We let the environment carry us along and our actions are often decided by the situations we encounter. The only difference between the leaf and stick is that the leaf might travel faster and possibly further, but neither have control.

There is much more for me to talk about. I could go into how the water shapes the stones over time, how the wind carries leaves to the stream or not, or how the stream has a start and where does it go? Calming your mind allows you to see things from a unique perspective. This allows me to see things for more than what they are. Small daily activities that are happening all around us can give us a glimpse of some deep thought provoking life lessons. Many might just sit by a stream and admire the view (and nothing wrong with that) but really look at what is happening around you. What do you see? You have experiences and perspectives that are unique to you and the small things can provide some important messages. This happens to me all the time…hmmm, looking at my watch, what can that tell me about life? OK, that is another future post. Go out and explore the world through a micro lens.

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