“The moon may be dim or bright, round or crescent shaped,
This imperfection has been going on since the beginning of time.
May we all be blessed with longevity,
Though thousand miles apart, we are still able to share the beauty of the moon together.”
from a poem by Song dynasty poet Su Shi
The Zen metaphor “Moon-in-the-water” speaks to daily living and creative flow while at the same time expresses a mysterious truth. In his 2011 book, I is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World, author James Geary writes
Metaphor is the bridge we fling between the utterly strange and the utterly familiar, between dice and drowned men’s bones, between I and an other […] Parables and proverbs feature so prominently in folk wisdom and religious scripture because there is no way to convey spiritual truths other than to set them side by side with natural truths. The numinous is the nitty gritty. I is an other (Geary, 2011).
We co-create and shape experience both externally (through relations with others) and internally (in relation with our thoughts and feelings). This inter/intra connection is a bi-directional co-creative process. In the Moon-in-the-Water metaphor, water (subject) is our inner self. Moon (object) is our external world and relationships. Moon and water exist in relationship to each other. They co-create each other, and through author Daniel Siegel’s lens remain differentiated, integrated and in harmonic relationship (Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, Siegel, 2010). Inner creates outer and outer creates inner simultaneously. So if the moon does not rise or there is no water, there is no unity or integration, no “Moon-in-the-water”. Water and moon happen together, they do not wait for each other to exist. The metaphor holds the insight that we create and shape our experience, just as we shape and are shaped by our creative process.