Once there was a woman who spent her whole life climbing a very high mountain. She began as a tiny child and could not remember a time before the mountain. Year after year, she would ascend the steep cliffs; and in the process, she became very good at the motion of climbing. The muscles in her legs and her back grew strong; and after a while, climbing felt as natural to her as breathing. As time passed and she went higher and higher, she didn’t even have to try and climb anymore – her body did it automatically.
At last, one day, the woman reached the top of the mountain. She was overjoyed with her achievement and couldn’t wait to start out on the next portion of her travels, conquering her next mountain. As she looked out over the horizon, she saw a beautiful blue lake, stretching sideways as far as her eye could see. But being a climber all of her life, the woman had only lived on the mountains, so she had never seen a lake. In fact, she didn’t even know what a lake was. She watched the strange expanse before her and concluded that it must be some unusual kind of blue mountain. Since the only way to continue her journey was to cross over the odd-looking blue form, she decided that was what she must do.
So the mountain woman walked up to the water and began trying to “climb the lake” with the same motions she’d used to climb the mountain. At first, she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t making any progress and, in fact, was exhausting herself. So she mustered all of the energy in her strong body and tried to “climb” even harder, placing one leg in front of the other, using her hands to attempt to grasp the “blue rocks.” But her efforts were useless. She kept falling over and wasn’t going anywhere.
Just about this time, when the mountain woman felt like giving up, she notices a person floating by on top of the blue lake, gently gliding his body through the water with the slightest movements of his arms and legs.
“What are you doing, my friend?” he called out to her.
“What does it look like?” she answered, her face flustered with embarrassment. “I’m climbing the lake.”
“Good woman,” the man of the lake replied, “don’t you know that you can’t cross a lake by climbing it? The only way to travel through water is to swim.”
“But I’m such a marvelous climber!” the mountain woman insisted. “I’ve spent my whole life learning to climb. I can climb any mountain, I can reach the top of any peak. Surely there must be some way I can climb the lake.”
“I’m sure you are an excellent climber,” the man of the lake answered politely. “But that skill won’t help you here in the water. It took one kind of wisdom to get you to the top of the mountain — you had to make your power stronger than the mountain. Now you need to learn another kind of wisdom to get across the lake — you need to surrender to the power of the water and allow its force to be stronger than you. You don’t have to try hard anymore. In fact, the less you try, the better you’ll do!”
And so is life, my friends.
From “Real Moments,” by Barbara DeAngelis, Ph.D., 1995.