The Tao of Rowing Your Boat

Photo Credit: TrueFalseFilmFestival

“If a man is crossing a river and an empty boat collides with his own boat, he won’t get offended or angry, however hot-tempered he may be.  But if the boat is manned, he may flare up, shouting and cursing, just because there’s a rower.

Realize that all boats are empty as you cross the river of the world, and nothing can possibly offend you.”

Excerpt from The Second Book of the Tao by Stephen Mitchell

Brain researcher Karl Pribram found that the human brain constantly projects an internal view of the world based on an individual’s inner-experience, out into the world like a hologram.  His discoveries brought him to the conclusion that there is no real objective “out there” at all – it’s just your projection that seems so solid and real.

“If everyone is your projection in the first place” writes Mitchell, “if you see not them but who you think they are-how can you be offended?”

What if the person who broke your heart, the backstabbing co-worker, or the politicians and bankers who got our country into the mess it’s in – are all “empty boats”?

When you finally understand how totally and completely alone you are (yet how entirely connected you are), as you drift lazily or row mightily across the river, it’s a cause for celebration!  It is an awakening.

Mitchell continues, “This has nothing to do with taking the right action against greed or stupidity.  But if you’re offended, it means that you’re not paying attention.”

The lesson?

  • Tend to your own “boat”.
  • Pay attention to what seems to be happening “out there”.  It’s not.  What’s really happening within you?
  • Remember that they are all “empty boats” (Yes, even that houseboat called your “family”!)

I’d love to read your comments.   What lesson do you get?  What insight do you have?




Leave a Reply

About John Amaral

Santa Cruz Chiropractor Dr. John Amaral has helped thousands of people from over 50 countries transform and awaken to more meaningful and purposeful lives. Follow him on twitter at @johnamaral