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  • Writer's picturePaul Cotter

Returning to the Source

Long exposure view of ocean water pouring into inlet on the Southern California coast

As I photographed this beach in Southern California, I was mesmerized by the water pouring into the inlet and then withdrawing back into the ocean over and over again. Despite the continual motion, there was stillness. Despite the gentle sound of lapping waves, there was silence.


It was calming and soul-stirring.


The water's coming and going brings to mind an analogy that’s used in Eastern religions to describe the transition between life and death.


During our lives, we’re like an individual stream or a single drop of water. We see ourselves as separate, but we’ve simply lost touch with the fact that we’re part of the great ocean or river. In dying, our individual drop of water returns to the boundless source which is our true nature and our original essence.


Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki said, “When you do not realize that you are one with the river, or one with universe, you have fear. Whether it is separated into drops or not, water is water.”


When we look at it this way, our whole outlook changes and there's no need to fear what lies beyond. How can the drop of water be afraid of returning to its home?



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