Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

The Work That's Ours to Do

By DanaLee Simon

“We are swimming in this stream together/some in power and some in pain… We’re all swimming to the other side.”
—Pat Humphries, “Swimming to the Other Side

On a recent hike in the Utah mountains, I happened upon one of Nature’s miracles: the kokanee salmon spawn. It’s a Wonder I try to witness every year—beautiful, meditative, raw, and profound.

As we came near the trail’s end, we could see fish in the water below, making their way upstream. To our delight, crowds of kokanee were congregating in the deeper pools further back up the canyon. Kokanee become bright red at spawning time, so they look like flames dancing underwater. We sat near one pool for a while, watching.

Eventually, my eyes focused on a singular fish “stuck” below a rock wall just below a deeper pool. As I watched her swim without getting anywhere, I found myself wanting to help. I imagined scooping her up and assisting her over the rock wall. Pretty soon, others in my hiking group started saying the same thing I was thinking! We all wanted to help.

But, we didn’t. It’s against the law to disturb the kokanee during this precious time in their life cycle. More importantly, we decided that we could trust that this incredible creature had everything in her that she needed to engage the work that was hers to do.

This idea—that we all already have everything we need within us to meet the life that is before us—is something that I often use as encouragement when I meet with people in Spiritual Direction. It’s a reminder to connect to our Wholeness. It’s an invitation to put away the lie we have swallowed (hook, line, and sinker?) that we are separate from God, whose presence with us is unconditional and unwavering.

I appreciate this reminder from the kokanee because although I believe it down to my very core, I find it easier to say to others than embrace for myself. I appreciate this invitation because it summons me, again and again, to turn my face to God; to Love; to the One who always reflects the truth of who I am.

It was hard to turn away from the stream that day. Heading home, I felt like I was leaving a holy place. I was. It is. I take the lessons of the kokanee with me. I need what they teach for my journey.

Prayer

Holy One, remind us often that even as we are always becoming more and more our Truest Selves, we also already have all we need to meet life fully. Use our times of inward reflection to help us intuit our way, and keep us open to your guiding presence. Amen.