Recently this story about a journey crossed my path. You may have run across it yourself -- it's often read at funeral and memorial services:
Once, in a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads, there lived a little water beetle in a community of water beetles. They lived a simple and comfortable life in the pond with few disturbances and interruptions.
Once in a while, sadness would come to the community when one of their fellow beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and would never be seen again. They knew when this happened their friend was dead, gone forever.
Then, one day, one little water beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb up that stem. However, he was determined that he would not leave forever. He would come back and tell his friends what he had found at the top.
When he reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad, he was so tired, and the sun felt so warm, that he decided he must take a nap. As he slept, his body changed and when he woke up, he had turned into a beautiful blue-tailed dragonfly with broad wings and a slender body designed for flying.
So, fly he did! And, as he soared he saw the beauty of a whole new world and a far superior way of life to what he had never known existed. Then he remembered his beetle friends and how they were thinking by now he was dead. He wanted to go back to tell them, and explain to them that he was now more alive than he had ever been before. His life had been fulfilled rather than ended. But, his new body would not go down into the water. He could not get back to tell his friends the good news. Then he understood that their time would come, when they, too, would know what he now knew. So, he raised his wings and flew off into his joyous new life!
-- Author Unknown (My hasty research yielded no author to which to attribute this -- otherwise I would -- but feel free to correct me in comments below if you know who originally penned it!)
What does this have to do with the outer journey? Keep reading.
Adventures in Surfing
It's dragonfly mating season here in south Florida. They are positively Jurassic in size, and everywhere except the beach, which is part of the reason why right now, with our summer tourists gone for the season, the beach is a divine place to spend the weekend. As you know after reading tales from my outer journey so far this summer, I'm insatiably hungry for the next adventure.
So a few weekends ago I made a special trip to Cocoa Beach, one of the best in the state for surfing. I took one surfing lesson years ago but never made it up on the board. That day the waves were too small, the board was too short, and the whole experience left me unsatisfied and wanting for more. If there's one thing I vowed to learn before I die (and especially while living in Florida) it was to surf.
Normally I venture into the water for a comfortable swim or snorkel with few disturbances. Once in a while a big wave swamps me. Once in a while a big wave swamps someone else and rip currents carry them to a watery grave. It's rare, but it happens.
This time I felt the irresistible urge to ride above the water and feel the full surge of the surf that I'd had barely a taste of years before. I would get up there and live to tell about it. The remnants of Hurricane Irene promised above-average rollers. I rented an 8-foot-long board and by god, I caught waves for an hour before I was finally able to get beyond kneeling and stand.
Like many things in life, your perfect ride on the perfect wave happens suddenly, and you can't predict ahead of time which it will be. You only know that if you keep your eyes open, learn to spot the good waves and don't waste your energy on the mediocre ones, you'll eventually have the ride of your life. Which is what suddenly happened for me.
I caught a good one. I felt the wave lift the board, then me. I popped directly up on my feet rather than sliding gingerly to my knees. Carefully I stood, finally not tilting or wobbling. I stayed upright and was instantly in command of the board, soaring effortlessly as the ocean carried me in a way superior to all other water activities I'd experienced so far. I saw the beauty of the sea from an entirely new perspective -- not under or through but above it, as if I could walk on it. Clearly a superior way to travel the waves. I could feel life rushing under and through the board and me, in a way I never had before.
Luckily for me and unlike the lowly water beetle, I am still here to tell about it.
Yes, as the water beetle-cum-dragonfly, we too are much more than we realize. Yes, in our human experience we live in relatively small, comfortable worlds unable to grasp the totality of existence. But it doesn't have to be that way. We are conscious. We can awaken, and we can choose to begin transforming beyond our perceived limitations right here and now.
Don't follow the conventional path of everyone else. Don't succumb to group-think about what comes next. Don't wait until you feel the irresistible urge to climb the stem -- climb it now. Climb it out of curiosity and without fear. Climb it with passion and joy. Don't wait until death to soar. You may not be able to sprout wings just yet, but you can certainly broaden your vista and glide into a joyous new life.
All that is the glory of the dragonfly lies inside you already, even if you can't see it. Knowing that, your only task is to live as if you truly believe it.