Watching fish swim slowly and gracefully in the clear water of a large pond which also has lilies and other plants is truly a peaceful occupation. But it takes a lot of work to set up the scene.
The pond I inherited came with the house, and over the winter there it was.... With about 15 carp and goldfish... Enduring the relentless rain we get in this part of wild England.
Then one morning in early March, I went down to check the pond and saw with astonishment that it was full of frogs! Big frogs, little frogs, about 27 of them, seemingly appearing out of nowhere.
Now being a naive individual, always wanting to let nature take its course, I thought a pond was pretty self-sustaining, fed by rain water, oxygenated by the plants and there you go! But soon it became clear that all was not exactly as it should be. The water began to grow dark brown bit by bit. Green algae spread across the surface and long strands of weed began to grow on the sides of the pond. The fish disappeared. Even the frogs dispersed one by one, and the water ended up smelling ...well, like malodorous dirty pond water can smell. The final straw was the corpse of a dead frog circulating slowly round the pond. It was to all intents and purposes a dying ecosystem and by this time I truly thought all the fish had been eaten by something. Not a single one could be seen.
Time for action. I worked out firstly that the pond was gifted with a pump and water filter...just needed to find where it was plugged in. Next, water clearer, and then of course...the water pump pipes were so brittle that they immediately split apart and leaked. Drama! Solved by buying different pipes, connecting them up, and finally...the water started circulating again.
At this point I thought the pond was beyond repair, and that I would have to buy a new stock of fish and start all over again in reincarnated pond 2.0.
Then...amazingly...the fish reappeared out of nowhere! Every single one! As the water alkiline balance reasserted itself back to normal, they even started swimming speedily. No frogs... Plenty of tadpoles. But life miraculously resurfaced.
So many lessons come from this simple restoration of conditions. A soul and its conditions are very much like such a pond. We all yearn for clear water, for simple and joyful life and hope that without doing anything about it, life will gift us such an incarnation. But we usually miss the central point that Earth is a school for learning, and that conditions continually arise which cause suffering and sorrow... But we are also far from helpless.
The pond came back to life with filtration and water cleansing. Our lives too can regain vibrancy if we actually do something about it. Very easy to moan about our horrid lives and their relentless challenges. Harder to do something about cleaning the water. Spiritual effort is just that.... Effort and work. A bit like cleaning a house. If you want the clarity of clean water, you will have to make difficult choices somewhere along the way. You will have to get up from your couch and actually do something. Grace is always freely available, but our capacity to receive grace is the nub of the problem. Increasing our capacity, removing the dirt.... It takes courage and skill. Welcome to your incarnation! I believe we all willingly signed up to be born, willingly accepted what life was going to bring to us.
The other day a Serious Sadhana student dropped away from the course after two months, saying he did not trust that God either cared for or listened to him, and that any spiritual discipline was too hard because his life was so busy and troubled. Fair choice for a soul to make. But it reminds me that all too often we wait for a sort of fantasy of a Divine appearance saying "I will do your sadhana child" and we can then sit back and watch TV. In this consumer-led world, we want to consume, to feed, to take in. Sadhana is not consumption. It is the exercise of the will in a sustained and meticulous manner to achieve closer communion with the Indweller. This does not happen overnight with flashing lights and heavenly choirs. It is not easy, of course it's not. What achievement in life really is ever easy?
The other common lesson.... We think our ponds are just too dirty and that cleaning is a hopeless endeavour. Or we make a quick effort, a sort of frenetic nervous attempt and collapse. It is amazing how even the basic filtration of slowing mental activity to a stop, even that is simply too much for most of us. Meditation is the key to spiritual success, to cleansing the water of our little ponds. So I fight for its role in life. Let it not be forgotten by us humans!