Sometimes in life, your life starts to completely change itself over without you realizing it. It’s a little pebble that got dropped into your pond, and a small ripple ran out from it. In most circumstances, that ripple runs out of energy and dissipates. The pond remains the same. But every now and then and with a little bit of grace, a pebble drops in. A ripple runs out, and it meets another ripple. The two grow together. Another ripple joins in and then another. Pretty soon a large swell is growing in this otherwise serene setting, and you are suddenly going somewhere, perhaps quite unexpectedly.

This is the power of our intentions and little actions.

I happened to be thinking about this in my own life, and while I am quite certain that my perspective will change as I continue to change and grow through the years, I happened to notice a pebble in the pond about 9 years ago that I hadn’t really paid much attention to. I felt like sharing this little story as well as to talk more about the importance of patience, selfless service, and the gradual growth most people experience on the spiritual path.

The Pebble, the Wave, and the Changing of the Pond

Let’s be clear that this isn’t about a romance, but I was dating someone at the time. It’s really not about “our” relationship. Our connection was a brief one, and this is certainly not a soulmate story or anything like that. I was dating a girl who soon was leaving town. She was going to travel alone, but I felt like I should help even though we weren’t going to be staying connected in any way. That’s about it. That’s the pebble. Sure it was a nine-hour odyssey through the desert (which was harder on her than me since her car didn’t have A/C, I believe). But there isn’t any spectacular moment or realization. Spiritual awakening isn’t a part of this story in any pronounced way, and I probably din’t really have much of any idea what that term would even mean at that time.

What matters here is that I really stepped outside of my comfort zone to help someone. While I’ve always been a helpful person, I don’t think I’d ever really extended myself in that way for nothing to gain. There wasn’t any obligation in the relationship. We weren’t together, but I think something started moving for me because of that offering of selfless service. I couldn’t see it then. Only now do I feel like I can see how that little ripple ran into others later in that fall that built up to a small realization. That was just to get the boat sailing, folks. There’s nothing major or exciting to otherwise talk about in this story, and that’s partly the point.

Quiet Work Inside and Without

Selfless service is a big piece of many spiritual traditions and for good reason. It’s not about starting someone towards awakening. It’s simply a great way to enjoy life and to help people feel interconnected. Too often one of the big issues for people in society is that they feel so alone. They feel cut off and isolated. When one of us reaches out and puts ourselves outside of our comfort zones, we offer an important opportunity for another to feel supported and connected to the whole. While I talk about the importance of connecting within ourselves first, this type of reaching out does encourage that within ourselves as much as it is a kindness offered to another. Something can come alive in these moments that furthers our own growth. Obviously, that’s not the point. It’s too self-serving to be the point, but it is often an unexpected offshoot of helping others and one that is worth noting.

Allowing the Ripples to Build

A part of why a lot of pebbles and ripples amount to nothing is because each new little ripple we run into requires us to change. The universe keeps asking us how far we are willing to go for spiritual freedom, and usually after the first ripple, people say, “No thank you. I’ve had enough.” They say, “This is too intense.” They say lots of things, but really they’re just saying, “I’m afraid.” Fear is too often the gatekeeper to our freedom and greatness, but that’s what is freezing up a lot of lives. Just once a ripple gains momentum, a cold wind blows in, and the pond freezes over.

But if you do start to sense this coming cold wind, breathe in to this moment. Stoke the fire of awareness to keep your pond from icing over, and see what is coming. A lot of times, if we’re honest, we know what is coming. It’s not usually big, explosive moments. It’s not tidal waves. It’s other little opportunities for selfless service. It’s an opportunity to listen to a friend in pain tell you a story that may trigger discomfort in you even though it has nothing to do with you. It may be learning a little bit of calculus or math (which you hate) so that you can help your son in school. It can be a lot of things, and it’ll often come with that shiver that you feel when you start to be vulnerable and uncomfortable. This is precisely the time to breathe in and flow into this next ripple.

A Growing Wave

As you embrace ripples in your life, you’ll notice that the wave often takes on a life of its own. Keep in mind that I’m not talking about spiritual awakening today. That’s like when a tidal wave suddenly explodes through a dam. That’s not how it is for most people, although in my story, these ripples did build to that tidal wave. For most of you, you’re building up a wave to flow into a new way or rather a true way of living. By “true way,” I mean that you come to live the way you truly feel called to live and which makes you feel truly alive. This is not a life that conform to society standards, although there may be overlap. We don’t fight society’s standards on the spiritual path. We simply live our lives in love, kindness, and selfless service, and where that aligns with society’s ideals, that’s simply a happy happenstance. Otherwise, we pay less and less heed to society’s ridiculous ideals on beauty, success, and so forth. They are cages that keep us from flying.

And to go back to the water metaphor, the wave gathers momentum in your life, and it starts to lift you up higher above the pond and the rocks and perceived barriers. It becomes even more challenging now because more and more issues and fears get revealed. But the growing movement is also precisely the energy you need to break through.

Breaking Through or Backing Down

Not to be pessimistic here, but most people back down when real, deep change comes to them. Most people believe too much in society’s ideals and their own fears and limitations. Even as a growing wave of inner change mounts, the human tendency to go back to what is “familiar” overpowers a lot of people on their spiritual paths. This is why spiritual teaching, teachers, and communities are so important. Most of you will need the support to simply trust yourself. Those of you who seem to be able to breakthrough on your own are gifted pioneers. You are not “better” than others. More precisely, you are following a different path and have a different role to play. The pioneer is no different than the follower. Both are embraced, and both have sacred roles to play in the balance and harmony of life.

If there is great upheaval for most of you as these ripples join together in bigger and bigger waves, it is only because you’ve been out of alignment with whatever role you are here to play. This energy is taking you in the direction that is most true to you. In connecting to that truth and inner harmony, you come to your true place in our human ecosystem where jesters, musicians, followers, leaders, database architects, CEOs, janitors, mothers, fathers, and a host of other roles are all needed if we are to break the cycles of pain and misery and fully support our human race and all beings on this planet.

The Continued Dropping of Pebbles

As I said, the path for most of you doesn’t so quickly turn into waves that transform the pond and join it to the ocean of consciousness. So you keep dropping pebbles into the pond and following the ripples to see what happens. Drop…splash…drop…splash. Where do they go? Where are you flowing? Do you know?

A lot of times, we try a lot of things to get things flowing. As I’ve talked about elsewhere on this blog, we have to unnumb to feel and sense things. That means getting rid of intoxicants and taking care of our mind, heart, body, and subtle energy field. Before we can sense where anything is going, we have to be able to sense ourselves. But even in this kind of work, we are already dropping pebbles. Little ripples are spinning out across the pond and touching many things in our lives. Who is to say when something starts to really move? That sort of prophecy is in the hands of God, but if you do stay true to your spiritual practice and you offer acts of selfless service, more often than not, something moves. And perhaps one day, you’ll look back at a moment–perhaps a moment that you did today–and smile and remember how such a simple and seemingly insignificant thing you did could suddenly grow into such profound life-changing waves.


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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