Against the Stream

The Merganzer mom led her clutch of fluffy ducklings through eddies and ripples created by a series of spring fed waterfalls flowing into the Metolius river. It seems strange she would choose this route. But the little duck muffins dutifully bobbed and paddled through the current, following their mother upstream to an as yet to be determined destination. Standing on the stream bank, I am grateful to witness this moment of natural flow against the stream.

Most of us are familiar with the expression, “go with the flow.” It is very wise to do so when we are traveling downstream. But sometimes we need to go against the flow to accomplish our goal. It takes more energy to master upstream current, to skillfully follow the urging of compassionate action compelling us to stretch a bit. I think this is why the Tibetan Buddhists refer to compassion as “skillful means.” Bodhisattvas have mastered this art because they know compassion flows in all directions all the time.

If we follow the bodhisattva path, we choose to overcome obstacles to the natural flow of love and sometimes it feels like we are paddling against the stream. Daily practice helps us to become more skillful in finding a way through the resistance. On an absolute level there is no obstacle, but we are pretty stubborn. Our ego induced emotions can be very turbulent. So we visualize guiding all beings through the eddies and ripples of a strong current and therefore find our own way.

It is not about us, anyway. When we get over ourselves, we get over the waves of resistance. When we prioritize acting for the benefit of others, we experience freedom to move wherever we are needed. I doubt the mother Merganzer was emotionally wrought over the ripples, she simply guided her brood through.


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