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Living in Awareness

by Karuna Poole, ARNP, MN

I enjoy looking at life as if it is a series of lessons. I think it is fun, on occasion, to identify the lessons as they are occurring. I had such an opportunity on September 17, 2006 when a group of twelve friends from Seattle, Tacoma, Vashon Island and Port Townsend joined together for an early morning adventure. Our goal was to take a three hour long boat journey to Rat Island, where we could watch the seal colony waking up.

    We congregated at the local marina at 5:30 a.m. when it was still dark outside. Our leader was experienced in the use of the longboat and a few others had some rowing experience but most of us were beginners.

    We took our places in the boat and learned how to insert the oars. After some time, we pushed off and the challenge began!

    There was a lot of wind and current. Since most of us didnít know how to row properly, at first the ten oars seemed to be going ten different directions. We constantly hit against each other. Over and over again, we bumped against the dock and came perilously close to hitting other moored (docked) boats.

    Lessons:

    • Individual effort without teamwork can lead to going in circles or going nowhere
    • Like meditation, getting started might be the hardest part
    • Recognize that a beginner needs time to learn new skills

    When you row a boat like this, the people rowing do not see where they are going. The leader is standing; watching and directing. The rowers are completely dependent on his directions.

    Lessons:
    • Choose a leader who knows more than you do and with whom you have a sense of trust
    • Listen to your leader
    • Be willing to learn from those who know more than you do
    • Be humble

    Slowly, we were able to round the first turn from the place where the boat had been docked. We were soon being thrown from place to place by the waves and were having trouble getting out of the marina. Another boatman asked if we would like a tow. He towed us a short distance and then freed us. From there, we were able to finally start making progress.

    Lessons:
    • Accept the help God sends through other people
    • Be humble

    We finally made it out of the marina and began to rowÖ and rowÖ. and row. The wind and waves were going against us. We were able to get in sync for short periods of time but it never lasted. Anytime any one of us lost focus, we would crash against each otherís oars. There was a big difference between what the waves looked like and what they felt like, meaning they looked so small and felt so huge.

    Lesson:
    • Challenges sometimes arenít as big as they seem at the time we are undergoing them.

    When we left the marina it was dark. We didnít even notice when night began to turn into day!

    Lesson:
    • How often we are in the darkness and donít see the light when it presents itself.

    At one point, someone pointed out the sunrise. The pink and orange rays of light silhouetted the Olympic Mountains. As people turned to look at the sunrise, our oars once again began to clank together.

    Lessons:

    • It is important to stay focused on your higher goal
    • Sometimes you need to see beauty through the eyes of others
    • Keep rowing; the sunrise is there even if you canít see it
    • The time to see the sunrise yourself will come

    The rowing was difficult work. If we became too tired to row, we had to pull up the heavy oar so it wasnít in the way of others. Whenever too many people put their oars up at the same time, the boat would drift away from the path.

    Lessons:
    • Know your own limits. Be willing to push yourself beyond your perceived limits but if you need to rest, then rest.
    • Be willing to start again immediately, if you are really needed.
    • More can be accomplished through group effort, than by a single individual.

    We rowed for about an hour and a half. Sometimes it seemed like we werenít getting anywhere, no matter how much we rowed.

    Lesson:
    • There is a story of three frogs that fell into a pot full of milk. One of the frogs began swimming frantically, trying to keep itself from drowning. The other frogs floating in the milk jeered as the first frog swam and swam trying to save itself. Due to their lack of effort, the two jeering frogs soon drowned. The constant movement of the milk caused by the frantically swimming frog eventually turned the milk to butter, and the frog climbed out of the pot to safety.

    The whole journey was supposed to take three hours and when we assessed the situation we realized we were only a third of the way to our destination. It was obvious we needed to consider going back to the marina. As we paused to make the decision and rest, our boat turned around on its own and started returning to shore!

    Lesson:
    • Be willing to put in the effort without knowing if you will reach the destination
    • Be willing to accept the result of your effort even if it isnít what you wanted or expected.
    • Knowing when to put in effort, and when to let go and let God take over, takes discrimination
    • Not reaching the destination doesnít mean you didnít receive many gifts. In this instance even though we didnít make it to Rat Island or see the seals, we met the goals of participating in something fun, and experienced teamwork, adventure and learning.
    • Not all progress will be noticeable. Even when it seems weíve accomplished nothing, we might have actually learned a lot. Looking at the list of lessons in this article is evidence of how much I had the opportunity to learn.

    After a short rest, we started heading back to shore. Now that we were going with the wind instead of against it, our progress was remarkable. We quickly made it back to the marina. But would we be able to get back into our stall? Would we hit against the dock and pilings again? No, the miracle continued. With just two people doing a little rowing, the boat practically returned itself to the place where it was to be moored.

    Home again! What a gift the morning had been.


    Adapted from an article first published in Immortal Bliss Volume 3(1):45, 2007; Republished in New Spirit Journal, with permission from Immortal Bliss, April 2010, pages 12 and 16.