When I was in college, I remember one of my professors said that, education at a university is like looking at labels on boxes. All the boxes are neatly stacked and organized, and each one neatly labeled with its contents clearly marked.  And if you do well, you memorize what’s in all the boxes and in what order they’re stacked.  But what is frequently missed is that the boxes are never opened.  You know what’s in the boxes, but you don’t experience it first hand.  First hand experience is something very different from labels on boxes.

When I moved into my van, I expected it to broaden my horizon, both literally and metaphorically, and to get to open some boxes and have my life experiences.  I have not been disappointed so far.   But the most interesting lessons have come unexpectedly, unbidden, and in some cases unwelcome.

Take water for instance…

You know what I learned about water in school?  From chemistry – H2O!  It has unique properties in that, when it freezes it expands rather than compresses the way that other liquids do, and this is what makes ice float.  Both the gas form of water and the solid form are less dense than the liquid state.  If it didn’t do this, the bottoms of lakes and the oceans would freeze first, rather than the top, and would never melt!  Never mind that it’s the very substance that is the essence of life, and of the planet.

Being a religious studies major, I learned other things about water.  Lao Tzu liked to use water as metaphor for the Tao.  Water is soft and resilient.  It takes the form of whatever container holds it.  It always seeks the lowest levels, and always moves downward.   It’s pure and simple and flexible and humble, and never resists.  Yet, water in it’s persistence can carve canyons.  If we seek to be like water, then we have the greatest power.  We will be going with the flow – living the Tao.

And then I moved into the Hilton…

Living in my van gives me a whole new experience of water.  From “Tao and Water – The real Spiritual Lesson” by Master Steenrod:

  •  Water is relentless.  It never stops exerting it’s force.

Yup!  No matter how I try to keep the water out of the van, block the holes, whatever… it just keeps coming in!

  •  It’s force is a manifestation of its nature.  It does not try to be something it is not, applying neither morality nor immorality.

Uhuh!  It’s just water!  It’s not good or bad, regardless of how I may perceive it, and regardless of whether it’s messing up my night by seeping into my cabinets and things.  

  •  When it’s restricted, water seeks the weakest spot of any obstruction and applies constant force until it is free.

And it doesn’t matter if I put up one obstruction, block the hole, it just keeps coming until it finds a way in!

  •  When it’s pressed or attacked, it changes form and repositions itself.  It exerts counter force to search for weakness.

And if not for water, I would have no idea just how many weaknesses my van roof had!

  •  Water is opportunistic.  Given the slightest opening it will pass through.  It will do so while the opening is present.  It will widen the opening if possible.

Now I’m starting to think the author is hiding under my bed in the Hilton!

  •  Water has a wide range of energetic expressions, but continues to be water.  It can be still.  It can be sluggish.  It can be swift.  It can be pounding.  It can be vapor.

It pounds on my rooftop.  It sits in a still puddle in my window sill, and it’s vapor permeates all my belongings. 

Yes, I think I know more about water now than I ever wanted to.  And I’m not complaining really.  Because now I have completely opened the box labeled “The Tao”