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The hose, the reservoir, and the salmon

We are a stream whose source is hidden. Our being

is descending into us from we know not whence.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson has been on my mind because I’m going to visit his home in Concord in a couple of weeks. The quote above is one of my favorites from his writing. I'm looking forward to seeing where Emerson, Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott and others sat and had tea and talked about the great questions of life together. We will also see the cemetery where these famous writers are buried near each other.

Emerson’s line makes me wonder: What if our individual stream of consciousness—that constant flow of thoughts, emotions, and dreams with which we all live—is a trickle from the Great Stream of Consciousness? Here’s a strange image I came up with to hold that idea in my awareness.

Imagine a garden hose protruding from the base of a gargantuan dam that makes the Hoover Dam look like a child’s toy. The Great Reservoir behind the dam is so deep and the water pressure so great, that as water flows out through it, the garden hose flails about wildly. In all its flailing, it has no awareness it is connected to the great Reservoir. All it knows is the constant flow of thoughts and emotions that seem incessantly difficult to manage.

The Reservoir in this image can be God or whatever you think of as a Source infinitely larger than yourself. The garden hose is your temporary body-mind that is always connected to the Source but almost always forgets that. Put another way, the Reservoir is the Infinite and the garden hose is the finite flowing with a tickle from the Infinite.

In this image, I imagine prayer and meditation as ways for my soul, like a tiny salmon, to make its way upstream against the powerful flow in the garden hose and swim out into the vast waters of the Reservoir. What is this place? The fast and furious flow has ceased. Here there is no stream rushing through me, only the Reservoir surrounding and saturating me until "me" no longer makes sense separate from the whole Reservoir.

As my salmon-soul swims back toward the opening from which the garden hose protrudes, the water speed increases. There is a suctioning effect until I am once again back in the flopping garden hose.

If the dam and garden hose image is too wacky for you, maybe this nested meditation (which I wrote many years before the hose image came to me) will convey the same idea:

Find still water.

Find still water

by going deep.

Find still water

by going deep

beneath the surface tumult.

Find still water

by going deep.

Beneath the surface tumult

the sacred self dances like seaweed.


Kevin Anderson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, author, and speaker who lives in the Toledo, Ohio area. His latest book Now is Where God Lives: Nested Meditations to Delight the Mind and Awaken the Soul is available at Amazon or

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