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"The Spring" from Meditation without Gurus

Clark Strand

Meditation Process

Meditation without Gurus by Clark StrandOnce many years ago my college girlfriend and I went hiking in the mountains. After walking a long way, we stopped for lunch beside a small spring-fed lake. We had brought food, but nothing to drink. When I complained about this and wanted to head back, she said it wasn't necessary. There was water all around.

I looked at the pond and found nothing very appetizing about the condition of the water. Moreover, as a child I had been indoctrinated against drinking pond water by countless camp counselors and scoutmasters. But Sally slipped out of her clothes and waded right into the lake. She would swim underwater for twenty or thirty seconds, coming up in a different place each time. Finally, she emerged from a place about ten yards from the far shore and shouted, "Here it is."

I wasn't sure what she meant, but I took off my own clothes and swam to where she was. She took my hand and we swam down a dozen or so feet until a wave of cool water struck my face. She had found the spring that fed the lake.

Years later I discovered that our minds are just the same. Quite often the surface looks green and murky, but at bottom there is something clear. Sally had found the spring by swimming in the direction of the coolest water. You can find clarity the same way when you meditate.

When you notice you are sleepy, simply stay with that thought. The part of your mind that notices you are sleepy is, by definition, the part that is the most awake. After a few moments of thinking how sleepy you are, you will find your mind is much more [awake].

Excerpted from Meditation without Gurus: A Guide to the Heart of Practice. Copyright ©2003 by Clark Strand; used with permission from Skylight Paths.

Clark Strand is a former Zen Buddhist monk and a contributing editor of Tricycle:The Buddhist Review. The author of Seeds from a Birch Tree: Writing Haiku and the Spiritual Journey, he currently leads the Koans of the Bible Study Group in Woodstock, New York.