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Barrier Reef

Barrier Reef

Your tiny island

has a barrier reef

but the tide

is rising fast.

Let your castle turn back

to sand

and melt into

the ocean’s

graceful waves.


The atolls of the Pacific are surrounded by barrier reefs that create calm lagoons, enabling the islands to support plants and animal life. As I thought about these ecosystems, it occurred to me that our personalities and egos are like these atolls – an egosystem, so to speak – something both limited and part of the infinitude of creation.

As such, we are each a fascinating manifestation of the Self that plays the role of the character we are in this life, and become convinced we are that character in reality.

We cling to the character we play as if losing this limited identity would mean a death of sorts. But as the poem suggests, we are living in a castle of sand, and at some point a storm arises and washes the castle back into the vastness of the ocean. Is it disaster, or awakening? What is greater, the tiny island (or sandcastle), separate into itself, or the great ocean?

Often it takes a storm or high tide to awaken us to the smallness and frailty of our ego, while the vast ocean of the Self beckons us to merge into its beauty, depth, and vast liveliness. At this point, we may begin awakening to who we really are.

How do we swim (or melt) into this ocean? This quest-ion is the starting point of the spiritual quest. What is your island, and what holy storms help you wake up?


Why do I have a picture of clouds over Sedona for a piece about the ocean? Poets and pilots often think of the sky as a kind of ocean - vast and constantly flowing. If it helps, you can imagine merging into the deep blue ocean of sky of Arizona, and let the wisps of cloud-thoughts continue to appear and melt away as you melt into the immensity of the sky.

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Nov 09, 2021

Yeah...the importance of being able to consciously merge back into the Self can't be overstated. Perhaps a better perspective is realizing we already are merged with the Self...we have already attained the Self...but we just have to become aware of that reality to benefit from that knowledge. Baba stated that much more eloquently, of course! Thanks for reminding us, Paul!

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