This ancient Sufi story of a stream who couldn’t cross a desert because it didn’t want to give up being a stream really give us a glimpse into life doesn’t it? People, every culture, age, belief system, geography and socio economic group experience the challenge of facing identity and greatness while remaining unwilling to let go of who we think we really are. The fundamentals of our lives – the children born through us, the mirrors we attract through relationships, culture and networks, the challenges of job titles, enterprise, business and career and the physical universe of body, home, finances and possessions are not who we are but rather reflections of the light around us. It is our essence as water and not as a particular form such as a stream that is the truth of us.
In the 21 Century, we feel powerless -the pace of change and a sense of an uncertain future is relentless. Everyone is met with constant internal and external forces that cause challenges, uncertainty and stress. Life is filled with frequent turning points – constant changes in our careers or finances, retirement, changes in our families and lifestyles. All of these challenges are a desert providing us with the opportunity to see our greatness. This story is telling us quite clearly that the strategies that our identities we apply to our lives continue to keep us away from our truth and our greatness.This is a story about transformation.
The Wisdom of the Sands
A stream, from its source in far away mountains passing throughevery kind and description of countryside at last reaches the sands of the desert.Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross this one too.
But it found that as it flowed into the sands, its waters simply disappeared.It was convinced however, that its destiny was to crossthis desert as well, and yet – there was no way.
Now, a hidden voice, coming from the desert itself, whispered: the wind crosses the desert, and so can a stream.The stream objected that it was only dashing itselfagainst the sands and being absorbed; that the wind could fly,and this was why it could cross the desert, but How can I?
By hurtling in your own accustomed way, you cannot get across.You will either disappear or become a marsh;you must allow the wind to carry you over to your destination,replied the desert. But how can this happen? asked the stream.
By allowing yourself to be absorbed into the wind, the desert replied.This idea was not acceptable to the stream,after all – it had never been absorbed before,it did not want to lose it’s individuality!And once having lost it, how was one to know if it could ever be regained?
The wind, said the whisper, performs this function.It takes up the water and carries it over the desert and then lets it fall again.Falling as rain, the water again becomes a river.But, how can I know that this is true? protested the stream.It is so! replied the whisper, and if you do not believe it,you cannot become more than a quagmire,and even that could take many, many years.
In any case,it will certainly not be the same as being a stream! But, asked the stream, can I not just stop hereand remain the same stream I am today?You cannot, in any way, remain the same, whispered the desert sands. Movement is your very nature. It will never cease until your true destination has been reached.
When the stream deeply considered this,echoes of the truth began to arise in its mind. Yes, this is true.He understood that this was the only real and intelligent thing to do.And the stream raised its vapors into the welcoming arms of the wind,which gently and easily bore it upwards and along, letting it fallsoftly as soon as it reached the roof of the distant mountains.
It was now able to remember its prior dilemma in the desertand now realized the goal of its long journey,its true identity and the deathless nature of its true being.And this is why, it is said, that the way by which the stream of lifecrosses the desert of this world, is written in the sands.
So let’s look at the story again.
What is it saying to us?
What is obvious?
A stream, from its source in far away mountains, passing through every kind and description of countryside at last reaches the sands of the deserts. Just as it had crossed every other barrier, the stream tried to cross this one too. But it found that as it flowed into the sands, its waters simply disappeared. It was convinced however, that its destiny was to cross this desert as well, and yet – there was no way.Now we must go into every drop of this story and sip every part of it.
“A stream from its source in far away mountains”
You are a stream of consciousness that has flowed from its source far away in the mountains. The mountains represent the source – your origin and your flowing is the journey you have been on. You have always been in existence. You have always been this great continuity; this stream of conscious experience – journeying from the mountains and the source of its origin.
“Passing through every kind and description of countryside”You have passed through every form of life. You have been a tree; you have been a rock; you have been an insect, you have been a fish; you have been a bird; you have been a squirrel in a tree; you have been male and you have been female. You have been a cow and you have been a tiger. You have passed, in your journey, through all kinds of descriptions and countryside’s. Over all kinds of rocks, through all kinds of countryside; you are a great continuity, and you have moved through all kinds of barriers.
Finally, your journey has brought you to face your truth and to the sands of the desert. Just as you had crossed every other barrier, you will try to cross this one too – with the same old strategies that you have been using in the past. When you encounter your truth, your response is out of the same “old conditioning” that you have become accustomed to. These are your values, your beliefs, and your mythology. Now out of your same old strategies, you will try to solve the problem of the desert.
The desert represents a crisis. Sooner or later, your stream of consciousness is bound to encounter the desert – an obstacle. This desert however is unlike any obstacle or barrier that you have ever encountered before. It is crisis as well as a great opportunity for growth!
The Chinese have a beautiful ideogram for the word crisis – not in words but in ideograms (pictures). The ideogram for the word crisis consists of two smaller pictures – one representing danger and the other one represents opportunity – because a crisis is both! This is an opportunity to make a quantum leap and “transcend” all of your prior conditioning. It is only dangerous and life-threatening if you apply the same old strategies because they will no longer work. This is the beauty of the desert.
At some point in your life you will reach a crisis. When all of your strategies to make yourself happy have failed, you have entered into the desert. Nothing that you have tried in the past is working anymore – in spite of all your efforts; in spite of all your calculations and in spite of your activities – you simply remain miserable, bored and minimally satisfied. But still, you go on trying to use the same old strategies to solve what is a very new situation. You start Personal Development. You go to seminars and courses and study philosophy and wisdom. Still nothing works because you are using old strategies to solve a new situation. You are still filtering your new information through your old strategies.
You know you have entered the desert when those same old strategies that have enabled you to get through all the obstacles and barriers in your life up to this point no longer work. In the past you were able to “solve” it with a little more food; a little more sex; a little bit more money; a little more health; another husband; another wife; a little bit more information – and you were able to continue to flow and get past it.
In the past, these strategies have worked for you. Any planning or action at this point is tethered to your old strategies and WILL NOT WORK.Here you face your demons knowing some part of you must die so you can cross the desert.
You are facing a death of your identity in order to reach your greatness.You can go on trying to “console” yourself with mythology. Meditation and prayer keeps you looking for more consolation. As the stream flowed into the sand, it found its waters simply disappeared. The more you try to console yourself, the less consoled you become!
Now all of your strategies – all of your moves – simply disappear into the sands of truth. This truth is so awesome that, in spite of your best efforts to console and mythologize yourself, you simply fail. All of your strategies are just like water flowing into the sand! Somewhere deep down inside of you, you will admit there is no way for you to continue being the same person you were prior to reaching this desert.
“The wind crosses the desert, and so can a stream.” The stream objected that it was only dashing itself against the sands and being absorbed; that the wind could fly, and this was why it could cross the desert. You realise that the desert is the problem. Every problem contains its answer and it “whispers” the solution to you, but you must listen to it. A whisper has arisen out of the desert – out of the situation itself – and it is showing the stream the way across the desert.
Your anger, greed, envy, disappointment, attachment, vanity, suffering, lust, fear, shame – all your identity labels and traits tell you much about yourself. They are a part of your biography. See the activity that is producing the suffering. Listen to the whispers in the crisis of your life for they contain the keys that are the solutions to all of your problems. The answer is always in the problem! By avoiding, denying the problem, trying to console and anesthetize yourself, you actually hold onto the problem.
The desert brings with it a void – meaningless and so much without purpose – you feel like you must die to it. This is your higher self asking you to face your demons so that your IDENTITY can die.Now a hidden voice coming from the desert itself whispers, “the wind crosses a desert and so can a stream.” The moment you encounter your truth and greatness, you object and cling to so called logic. But at some point, this argumentative nature of yours must cease. At some point it must cease, if you are to grow. You cannot spend your whole life arguing and objecting, while your “waters” are disappearing into the sands. The stream objected that it was only dashing itself against the sands and being absorbed; that the wind could fly and this was why it could cross the desert. But how can I?
“By hurtling in your old accustomed way, you cannot get across. You will either disappear or become a marsh. You must allow the wind to carry you over to your destination”, replied the desert. “But how can this happen”, asked the stream? “By allowing yourself to be absorbed into the wind”, the desert replied. This idea was not acceptable by the stream. After all, it had never been absorbed before. It did not want to lose its individuality. And once having lost it how was one to know if it could ever be regained.
Living in your belief system, you will not be able to cross this desert. You will not be able to achieve happiness in your current hierarchy of values. In your old accustomed ways, and with all of your standard strategies, you cannot cross this desert of unhappiness. You will simply become a marsh.
“You must allow the wind.” The wind is the truth. You must allow this wind to absorb you. We are all clinging to this sense of being a separate self holding onto this illusion of being separate from existence. Our senses perceive that we are separate. We feel that we are individual, independent, existing as a parallel line with existence. Now here’s a question – what will be absorbed? What are you giving up? Your ego, individuality, illusion, fantasy and mythology? What is that? Nothing – you made it all up. You have nothing to lose. What you think you have will be merely TRANSFORMED.
Just like the wind, you will be absorbed as a stream and carried over the desert, and then let fall again. Falling as rain, the water again becomes a river. But, asked the stream, can I not simply stay here; stop here and remain the same stream I am today? “You cannot, in any way, remain the same. Movement is your very nature. It will never cease until your true destination has been reached.
When the stream deeply considered this, echoes of the truth began to arise in its mind. Yes, this is true. He understood that this was the only real and intelligent thing to do. The whisper has seen many streams come to the desert and has seen how all the streams had to enter into the process of condensation – and how the wind lifted their essential waters and carried them across. How would you analyze that which you have not experienced? You have not experienced life after death. How are you analyzing it? You are in the same position as a blind man trying to analyze light; a deaf person trying to analyze music. The proof is in the experience. You must have the experience. There is no way to prove to a blind man that light is all around. With or without proof, the crisis of the desert remains.
“But, asked the stream, can I not stop here and remain the same stream that I am today?” The stream’s question is also your question. “You cannot in any way remain the same, whispered the desert sands. Movement is your very nature. It will never cease until your true destination has been reached.” You are a stream of consciousness. Even on a daily basis, you never remain the same! This morning, when you woke up, maybe you were in a good mood. You were feeling alright! Driving into the office encountering road rage, then you start feeling a different way. You live in a state of transformation. You are never the same. It is in the nature a river to flow. It is in the nature of a human being that its conscious experience keeps moving.
It is in your nature to move and this journey will not end until you’ve reached your final destination and until you become who you truly are, this river of consciousness that you are will continue to flow. You have already flowed through many different personality structures.
“And the stream raised its vapors into the welcoming arms of the wind, which gently and easily bore it upwards and along, letting it fall softly as soon as it reached the roof of the distant mountains. The stream responded intelligently and it raised its awareness, attention and energy. Nothing to do but action to take.“Letting it fall softly as soon as it reached the roof of the distant mountain.” Remove yourself from the whole drama of ego activity. Condense your essence, let go and allow the wind to carry you.
You had been thinking all the debris was part of you, and you had been clinging to it. What is it that is motivating your clinging? It’s because you don’t want to die! It is being misidentified with the form (this body-mind) that we are in, which makes us cling to it and fear death. You mistakenly cling to your body-mind however your identity is stuff you have collected – habits, likes, dislikes, preferences, opinions, judgments. None of this is essential – its all made up. You carry it as debris in the stream that is you.
It is only when you arrive in awareness, back into the domain of self-realization that you truly realize “I was never that thing that I was calling me.” The thing that I was clinging to – calling it me – that was never me, at all. I have always been this “pure” consciousness of experience. I can be whatever I want. All I have to do is make it up. See it and it will be. And to live in my greatness, all I need to do is allow myself to be carried by the wind, accept my transformation into whatever form, and simply be.