All At Sea: Realizing Our Fundamental Unity Beneath Form

You and I are all as much continuous with the physical universe as a wave is continuous with the ocean. ~ Alan Watts Click To Tweet

Imagine the only thing in existence is a body of water that is known as an ocean; one vast ocean and nothing else. This ocean has always existed and always will.  It is a timeless ocean.  We can ponder what it may be like to be a conscious wave.  From the perspective of a wave not knowing its true nature, it may look to other waves and start the same process of separation that human beings participate in.

Within this ocean there are waves that have an unshakable belief that their true nature is that of a wave.  As such they are unaware of the underlying reality of the ocean and continue identifying themselves as waves. 

When a wave is compared to another wave it can be described in many ways.  It can be depicted in terms of how high or low the wave is or how big or small it is. It can be described in terms of powerful or less powerful or similar or dissimilar. If there is a perception of a wave that is gently ebbing in and out, it can be described as peaceful or beautiful. 

If the wave takes the form of a tsunami it seems to be about horror and destruction.  Sometimes there seems to be a beginning to the wave and sometimes there appears to be an ending as it laps up against the shore; a pseudo appearance of birth and death and of coming and going.

An idea may form in the consciousness of the wave. This idea may be that “I am not as big as the other waves” or “I am not as peaceful as the other waves” or “I am not as beautiful as the other waves”.  A wave may perceive a beginning of its life as a wave and an ending of its life as a wave.

The wave begins to suffer from the plague of ideas, or more aptly, from the plague of attachment to those ideas.  It lives its life in fear.  Fearing that it is disconnected and separate, it may try to merge with other waves.  Fearing its inevitable extinction, it does not know how to embrace life and seeks only to extend the moments that seem peaceful or happy and minimize the moments that are not peaceful or happy.

Never realizing its true nature, it seeks more moments of happiness, peace and connection, thinking that this is the answer to the mystery of life. 

But the wave does not know life, it knows only fear, where each of its movements are a movement away from fear and invariably back to fear.  No matter what it tries, fear always manifests in its experience under many different guises, punctuated by moments of relative calm.

The wave unconsciously fears what lies at the heart of itself: no-wave, which to the wave is symbolically represented as the physical death of the wave.  It sees this as an extinction of itself and does not comprehend that it is only a continuum of its real self.


If the wave was to touch her true nature it would realize it is the ocean, and the fear or neurosis created by its ideas would dissipate. There would be nowhere she could look where she would not be.  She would be in the beautiful wave, and in the not so beautiful wave, the peaceful and not so peaceful wave; all waves would be her, for without her, no wave could exist.  But it is more than that, for that too is a comparison of sorts.

Having nothing to compare itself with, the ocean is free from the illusion of birth and death, of coming and going, of beauty and ugliness, and the illness of “we-ness”.  From the perspective of water, all descriptions are invalid, for it is all water, no matter what form the water appears to take on.  It is literally the all in all.

Finally, the wave realizes its truth: waves are really water that comprise an ocean and take on the appearance of waves. It realizes that no-wave does not mean the end of life, but rather, no-wave is true life — the genesis of all manifestation on which everything arises.

People perceive all manner of life in much the same way a wave would view its existence. We like to describe, categorize and label. There is a concern with birth and death, comings and goings, the beautiful and the ugly, the right and the wrong. We divide and separate and in doing so do not see the true nature of the wave; do not see the true nature of us…

Our true nature is the nature of no birth and no death. We do not have to go anywhere to touch our true nature. We do not have to look for bliss or nirvana because we are that. We are what we seek, and all that needs to occur for enlightenment is to see the obviousness of the ocean that doesn’t contain a “we” separate to itself.  It is to look at the wave and see that it is made of the ocean, and then look further inward to see that it is water, where water is the stillness that allows the arising of the entire playground of all possibilities.

Problems originate because we think we are like a wave and do not see the totality of the ocean or the water. We believe ourselves to be an individual that exists separately and independently of others. The manifestations of waves are but short and impermanent appearances of an aspect of the whole, but never the whole in itself.  Yet each impermanent appearance contains the whole within itself, since it is all water.  That is why spiritual enlightenment is possible.

If we believe ourselves confined to a wave, that is what we take ourselves to be. If we believe ourselves to be confined to a wave dancing in an ocean among other confined and constricted waves, that too is what we will take ourselves to be.  It is our point of comparison to other waves, and we start to notice that some waves dance better than others, and others do not dance as well.

But when there is only an ocean in existence, and this is directly experienced as such — rather than believed in — that is altogether different. We are that totality, and in a boundless totality, the center of us is nowhere — or should we say “now… here…”?

As soon as it is felt that there is but the ocean; when we directly experience that everything arises from that, then there is no need to take ourselves to be anything.  There is just the ocean, the ultimate source, no matter how it is viewed.  No points of comparisons can be made from this perspective. There can be no ‘better than‘ or ‘worse off than’. All that is known is an unimaginable dance of harmony, and we realize that we are in fact the dancer that creates the harmony that the wave cannot see, or even dare to imagine.

Take the time to look deeply into your true nature.  Look deeply and see that we are like water, and that truly, we are all at sea…