The Best Spiritual Advice You Got In Kindergarten

rowboatYesterday, as I was listening to my mentor GD share his increasingly clear experience of the entire field of consciousness as a dream, I remembered an old nursery rhyme. Repeating the lines one by one, I was stunned that there was such precise spiritual guidance encoded in four lines:

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream

We are conditioned to believe in hard work, control and struggle as the way to go up (stream) in life. The first two sentences offer a kinder suggestion of gently guiding your boat downstream to the goodness and perfection that Life already has in store for you. In two simple lines, the verse captures the essence of what we now know as ‘the law of attraction’.

As long as one believes one is the ‘doer’ of life, the best advice is to row gently and go down the stream. The harder you push, the more reality you give to the false ‘doer’. So take it easy: for life is not a static lake but a stream that has its own natural, divine flow.

In the third line, there is a child-like joy of repetition, which gives the feeling-sense of how life may be lived: merrily. And in case you didn’t get it the first time, we’ll say it four times for you! That’s how much fun this thing called Life is!!!

The most beautiful part of the rhyme for me is the last line. The subtle connection that merriment in life arises not from where your boat takes you, but from the final understanding: ‘life is but a dream’. Go merrily, it advises, for life is but a dream. Again, notice that it doesn’t say that life is like a dream – it says life is a dream.

Reading it again, I noticed how the verse progressively moves from personal to impersonal. The first line has a sense of a ‘you’ rowing a boat. The second describes a scenario of a boat going gently down the stream. The third does not say: ‘you should be merry’. It is simply expressing the pure joy of it – merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. And the fourth, with one joyous lift-off, transcends the whole of life. In four little lines, the song traverses the whole journey from apparent duality to non-duality, between where we (think we) are and the final understanding.

Now that I am a father (in the dream!) teaching nursery rhymes to my little son, this is the one I would encourage him to hold on to for the rest of his life. Maybe someday, on a demanding day at work, he will hum it by chance and rediscover the same spiritual advice encoded in these four simple lines:

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream…