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The Stream

Alex Adams meditates on the paradox of a stream – February 2021

I have been struggling with zazen recently. While I am still sitting, my real meditation these days is to visit a stream near my house nearly every day. Walking across fields, past houses and horses and into the woods to visit the stream. It meanders through the woods, but I always visit it in the same large clearing. Lately, it has been covered in ice and I can only hear its water gurgling, bubbles rushing over the stones under its ice cover. It is never the same. Iced over now, it will be open again soon, making ice sculptures along its banks or from the branches hanging down into the water. Once, I came across the ice forming into a fish sculpture. It taught me that water is really an artist, the memory of the fish swimming in the water lingers although no fish are now present. A revelation to me then.  

Yet, with all its changes and cold mountain water rushing by, ever-changing in the seasons, it is still a stream.

Yet, with all its changes and cold mountain water rushing by, ever-changing in the seasons, it is still a stream. The stream’s essential essence is unchanged. A paradox to be ever-changing, flowing, growing, creating, being alive and also to be essentially itself. Always and forever on a pathway to the ocean, carrying water in an endless cycle of snow and rain falling, melting, rushing downhill and to the sea. So much we have to learn from this.  

As I dip and splash my hands into the ice-cold water and feel its energy, I thank the stream for the teachings it brings to me of the artistry of creation and the creator, of the beauty of cold rushing water over stones, of magical evanescent ice sculptures, of not clinging tightly to the shore but letting go and remembering we are headed to the ocean.

If I can but remember this and embrace this paradox of ever changing, growing, creating, freezing, thawing, and yet essentially the same, part of the great cycle returning to the ocean. This will set me free, to splash and gurgle and make ice sculptures, joyfully flowing downhill to the ocean, not afraid to become part of that bigness, that magnificence full of creatures and salt and endless horizons. 

Alex Adams, M.D., Ph.D. is a Zen Leadership Practitioner and the Director and Principal Investigator at the Center for American Indian and Rural Health Equity (CAIRHE), Montana State University.


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Published on Feb 22 2021