It was a do-nothing walk, the kind where you take long strides into nowhere carrying hot beads of sand under your toes. At some point I began watching the water sweep up over the sand. The wet waves left marvellous and intricate pictures each time they surged onto the shore: living art. I noticed the images could resemble anything: angels, skylines, puppy dogs, machine guns, planets -- almost every form there is lay briefly on the face of the sand.
Yet just a heartbeat later the water quietly withdrew, and the pictures dissolved into nothing. Then, once again, the sea would heave itself up into a huge living wave and spill itself over the beach -- causing a new collection of profiles to form on the broad sand canvas.
I thought, isn't that how it is in our everyday human life? Minute by minute, images wash up on the shore of our mind; then - whoosh! - they are gone, and a barrage of new ones rush in to take their place.
Just like the pictures made by the sea, they are not permanent. They seem real, though, if we stare at them. And that's the catch -- it's our habit to stare at external images. Yet the more we do, the more we become lost in their outlines. We stare, we memorize, we step inside them -- and before we know it our perspective shrinks from beholder to participant to victim. Having lost our broader overview, we seem -once again- to be at the mercy of the images that populate this world.
So enthralled are we with pictures and pictures of pictures that we neglect to pay attention to the Force out of which they arise.
Which is why so many teachers have cautioned us over and over and over again to withdraw our faith in appearances. Not just the awful images -- the lovely ones, too. Because, they tell us, as long as we hold any image as valuable, we will miss the point: images are not real. They are images. We can never realize that distressing forms are nothing as long as we are insisting that the pretty ones have substance.
If, as we walk along the beach, we become over-enthralled with one of the designs -- "Oh, what a beautiful castle!' -- we cannot escape our inevitable disappointment when it melts back into the sea. More importantly, we lose our spiritual perspective -- our ability to stand back and See.
The fact is, only when we surrender to a wider view and allow ourselves to absorb the entire shoreline -- the endless process of images appearing and disappearing before us -- only then can we experience the Divine Foundation that underlies all images. Only then can we discern that the pictures, however vivid, have no power or effect at all upon the Eternal Shore.
Which is why it is such a perfect place to rest our feet.