The Story of the Pond by James Smallwood

 In 2020 Blog

The Story of the Pond

by James Smallwood, 1986 MA Counseling

When I was a kid, I was constantly exploring nature. I was nine years old the first time my dad took us to the Sierras. We camped in a tent near a creek, and each morning after breakfast, I grabbed my fishing pole, and I was gone.  Along with fishing, I spent the whole day exploring nature, from the details in a simple rock wet from the creek to the ever-changing realities all around me. At home I would head down to the local pond, catch pollywogs, crickets, and worms.  I collected pond water, brought it home, and put it under my microscope, spending hours watching amoeba and protozoa spin and turn. I was fascinated with the ever-changing nature of nature.

In 1992, while walking along a creek near where I lived in Booneville, I watched a brown bug climb out of the water onto a pale rock, shed its shell, and within a half hour completely morph into a dragonfly and fly away. I saw nature again, my spiritual guide, teaching me its truth. It occurred to me that what I saw in that moment was not simply a bug transforming into a dragonfly, but the moment when that being woke up: the moment when it remembered it was a dragonfly.

All through history, spiritual teachers have experienced awakening while in nature – Jesus in the wilderness, the Buddha under the bodhi tree, and more.  Like that nine-year-old boy, they too employed their awareness; they put their lives and their inner worlds under a figurative microscope. Going deep inside they explored every facet, embarking on a journey into the unconscious mind.

Nature eventually brought me to my spiritual path. Practicing Vipassana meditation in 1991, I employed my awareness like a microscope. I went inside and, observing sensations (connecting with the unconscious mind), I explored the nature of every cell in my body. I discovered there was no substance, there was no me, there was only energy.  There was, as I call it, a Luminous Presence which is totally awake. And like that bug, in that moment I transformed.  My attachment to this world and the world of appearances dissolved, and I remembered that I had always been this Luminous Presence; I experienced home.

Following this awakening, as an apprentice with Don Luis Molinar and Don Miguel Ruiz in 2004, I experienced the opening of my heart. As I continued to practice observing both my outer and inner worlds, I felt the doors of perception open completely, so that the world of appearances and illusion dissolved. My perception did not morph; I saw what had already been there all along: reality.  At that same moment I fell completely and unconditionally in love with Mother Earth. In fact, in that moment I fell in love with everything. 

Like the early morning that suddenly turns bright, I realized this is what I am – not who I am, but what I am.  This is what everything is; it is what we all are, some call it the One.  We are the One, and it is us, just like a drop of water into a pond becomes the pond, and it is no longer a drop.  So today I hope our clouds will move away and reveal what has always been there behind the veil of our stories, the clouds of our false beliefs, on the other side of our thoughts about fear, unworthiness, and separateness.  Paradoxically, when we connect with our Luminous Presence, we do not come home – rather, the thought of being separate from home dissolves, and we experience the truth: that we have always been Home.


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