This year I’ll be writing a book about reconnecting with the natural world. This was the subject of my doctoral thesis years ago, but while that was a 500-page document that few people would want to slog through, I’m finally revising it into a work that’s shorter and accessible.
The crux of it is the idea that we belong to Nature – though we’ve forgotten this. Nature isn’t just scenery; it’s the substances and forces that created us and provide for all our needs. It also isn’t just a bunch of resources; it’s our greatest teacher. It’s constantly displaying lessons on how to be in balance and have a fruitful life, and it demonstrates a vast palate of virtues that are available to us. All we need to do is remember.
Today I’m going to share a little blurb from the section on Water. Here I discuss the virtue of clarity or transparency. As you read the following, see if you can call up an image of the clearest water. Imagine that every water molecule in your body (and it’s about two-thirds of what you are) contains the virtue of clarity – it’s already in you.
One of water’s most striking characteristics is its transparency. Just as clarity is the foremost measure of quality in a jewel, so is there something magical about clear water. Have you ever visited water that’s so lucent you can see the rocks and fish below as if looking through a window?
If we’re going to drink it, the clearer the better, since this tends to signal purity.
If we plan to swim or bathe in it, clarity means safety – it has nothing to hide.
And if we aim to be refreshed, clear water is the ticket for cooling us, moistening us, and cleaning us out.
When we embody clarity, it has a similar effect on our experience of life and others’ experience of us – pure, clean, refreshing, nothing hidden.
Few things are as conducive to both power and peace as a clear mind.
With clarity, we avoid most conflict. Our energy can be invested more wisely. When we’re transparent, we know ourselves. We’re aware of our strengths and weaknesses. We know what we’re capable of and to what extent we’re channeling or obstructing our potential. We have a realistic accounting of our resources. We see clearly how we’re utilizing them and what kind of return we get on this expenditure.
With a clear mind the process by which our authentic will expresses potential through us proceeds in a healthy, efficient, and beautiful way. If fear and social programming degrade our clarity, we may override the will, investing ourselves instead in behaviors that secure our safety and approval.
When we’re transparent around agreements, we commit ourselves only to what we know we can follow through on. We keep all the agreements we make – both with others and ourselves – and this builds self-trust. The unknown is less frightening when we know we can trust ourselves. If we break an agreement, we recognize immediately the clouding effect this has on our inner waters and we clean it up.
If we keep secrets or try to hide things from ourselves (such as the truth of how well we’ve followed through on an agreement), it fragments us and makes transparency impossible. It also makes us less trusting of others. When we instead prioritize clarity and stop the hiding and secrecy, we dispel potential sources of fear. Clarity makes us less prone to being controlled by our emotions – especially fear.
Sometimes we can be manipulated by fear even while avoiding it or pushing it away. This can form a certain cloudiness around the fear which might make it less intense, but also results in a chronic, vague anxiousness. When we insist on clarity, this means facing the fear and being with it willingly. It can be daunting, but the shift in attitude – from avoidance to curiosity and bravery – immediately changes the experience. The emotional volume diminishes and we can rationally ask ourselves, “Is this something to be afraid of? To be concerned about? Of no concern at all?” And if it warrants action we can clearly ask, “What am I going to do so that I’m reasonably protected from harm if such-and-such should happen?”
In a fearful state, one of the most useful things we can do is to tell ourselves the pure, unmanipulated truth about our circumstances. No “what ifs,” no stories. Just the facts. This gets us quickly to clarity. While it’s possible to be afraid even in a clear state, the majority of our fears are unreal except in the murky waters of an unclear mind.
Just as a lack of clarity creates shadows where fear can develop, fear further distorts our clarity, like a storm over the sea that makes the water too choppy to see through. When we feel uncertain about what’s beneath, we tend to stay on the surface, but this only keeps us immersed in the turmoil. Though it may seem counterintuitive, diving deeper takes us to an underlying stillness that’s unaffected by the waves on the surface.
I encourage you to spend some time soon with clear water. Let it arouse the virtue of clarity within you, and invite that clarity into all corners of your life.