A violent storm rages unpredictably on the ocean’s surface. A bad-tempered, blustery wind gusts endlessly whipping the ocean in to giant peaks and troughs as whitewash churns on the crest of dark ominous waves. Yet beneath the surface and under the swirl and throw of chaotic movement, the ocean remains calm. Beneath the waves are vast, deep and calm waters. Sea creatures who swim deep under the water do so in peace, blissfully unaware of the violence above. So, ask yourself; would you fear drowning and feel anxious about the waves tossing you around if you could breathe underwater? If you knew, you too could descend deeper in to the calm where the waves have no momentum, no control, no effect – would you not feel more at ease?
It has been over a month since I started meditating after attending a meditation retreat in Thailand. I always thought my mind was far too much of a disobedient, attention seeking, stimulus yearning child to ever be tamed into silence… But I was very wrong. Since leaving Thailand and returning back to ‘daily life’ I worried how I would go with maintaining the peace and stillness I discovered high in the jungle mountains on the island of Koh Samui. However, I’ve now realised that once you experience true stillness, it never leaves you. You can’t forget it, lose it or shake it off. Sometimes I meditate every day, sometimes every second day, sometimes I go a week without sitting down to meditate even once. Yet, I find that the more I practice, the more peace I feel and the better I become at sitting in the blissful quiet.
Like the ocean analogy above, this place of stillness I’ve found has become a refuge and a strength. Despite what is going on in life, I can still sit, empty my mind and go in to the quiet. It’s not escapism. It’s not retreating to avoid or escape, it’s centering and balancing yourself to better deal with life. Once I return from the stillness, I’m much more able to deal with life’s problems. I can now breath underwater in a place so still and calm beneath the waves and knowing that makes my ability to deal with the violent storms much better as it eliminates fear.
I’m not describing two different places here. It’s not as if you feel less stressed because you spend a day in a spa retreat before returning to the chaotic office. This inner place of stillness is part of you and remains with you every day. Just like the calm waters deep in the ocean are the same waters that create waves on the surface, it’s all connected. You don’t need to ‘retreat’ back and forth. You can simply tap in to the stillness during daily life to remind yourself how insignificant some of life’s perceived problems can be in the context of something far, far greater. Like gazing up at the night sky at the stars and contemplating the insignificance of the tiny speck we call earth, understanding your true inner-self has the same effect.
You see, I’ve realised that we tend to spend far too much time worrying about and trying to change life circumstances and situations. Really what we should be doing is learning better coping strategies. We can’t control life – that is an illusion. However, if we can cope with whatever life throws at us, then we will find that life becomes a lot less heavy and much more cooperative. Otherwise it’s like trying to change the weather rather than buying an umbrella or a raincoat.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we don’t try to change our situation when it’s bad or take steps to improve our circumstances, however if we learn to cope with whatever happens regardless, then we will be far better off. After my experiences I do feel life is lighter at a time when it should be incredibly dense and heavy. I’ve had no job, dwindling finances, complete career uncertainty and I’m now moving house again. Yet I feel as if I have a slippery soul that moves with more ease through the attempted grip of fear and anxiety. I still have moments and I’m far from perfect, but if nothing else I have to say that the power of meditation should not be underestimated and I feel I’m on the right track.