Reality is not what you think it is.
My mother is what you might describe as indomitable. Four foot ten, eighty years old, she approaches life with enthusiasm, humour and courage. At eighty she is still doing dog jumping (she rather apologetically says that she has slowed down, and can’t keep up with Bemer, her Jack Russel, as well as she should), publishing poetry, driving all over the Cape, dealing with gangsters, helping anyone who asks, and thoroughly enjoying life.
In her wild impetuous youth (seventy five years old) she and her friend Poelie decided to go paddling in a canoe on Lake Pleasant, near George. My mother can swim a little, Poelie not at all. The relative wisdom of two elderly ladies, neither of whom can swim very well, venturing into the middle of a lake in a canoe is debatable. Be that as it may, they paddled dauntlessly out to the middle of the lake. When they were about 500 m from shore, the weather took a turn for the worse, and the wind got up. They decided to head back.
After paddling desperately for twenty minutes, they realized that they were making little headway against the wind, which had become really fierce. The normally placid lake had now also developed waves sufficiently big to be quite alarming. The two old ladies put their backs into it and paddled as hard as they could. After another exhausting 15 minutes, they seemed to have actually gone backwards.
They were now quite desperate! Again they put their backs into it, with no other result than to wear themselves out even more. Eventually my mother said bravely, that as she was the only one who could swim, she would jump into the water and pull the canoe behind her as she swam. I think at this point they both had visions of an imminent watery death. Poelie made some halfhearted attempts to dissuade her, but by this time, death seemed inevitable.
My mother steeled herself, and clambered cautiously over the side of the canoe and slid into the water – to find that it was only knee deep! The whole lake is not much more than 80cm deep anywhere! With much relieved laughter the two waded home, dragging the canoe behind them.
Our thoughts totally create our experience of reality. While they thought that the lake was fathoms deep, they were terrified, and feared death by drowning. As soon as they realized that the lake was shallow enough to wade in, they could laugh and walk home.
I also like to think of this as a metaphor for the clarity and wellbeing that is our essence. It is always closer than you think. It is the murky water of our thinking that is obscuring it.
Importantly too, however, is that my mother took action – she faced the fear and stepped into that lake. So many fears and obstacles that seem overwhelming are just as easily overcome.
So take the plunge – step into your lake – maybe the water is not as deep as you think!