Sailors in the stormJune 9th, 2012 at 13:51
There is no inner peace without outer harmony. There is no outer harmony without inner peace. So where do find balance? What brings us into accord?
It is the habitual nature of the mind to search for some kind of solid ground, security: that object, person, feeling, situation or place that will allow us to feel settled and without fearful or desolate emotion. The problem is that our environment becomes a mirror of our minds, and we enter into a feedback loop with that which we see we’ve created. If we feel trapped, we begin to fixate on the encroaching conditions around us. If we feel lonely, we fix our emotional bearings on the bleak landscape and scarcity of our world.
When I counsel clients who are in emotional/psychological distress, I encourage them to foster a sense of courage and resolve. The phrase I use is to ‘stay at the helm.’ Much like a sailor in a storm, our survival is inextricably linked to the stability of the ship. When we feel it thrown about in the rising and falling swells it induces a sense of panic. But being on a vessel upon the sea, we have to remember that we have intrinsic knowledge about the way of the ocean. We know if we encounter unexpected weather or potentially capsizing waves, that it is the nature of the universe within which we must navigate.
So where do we find our equilibrium in such unpredictable waters? First of all, what is helpful is to remember is that we are on a journey; though we cannot control the weather, we can determine our course to avoid trouble and to make calculated choices based on risk and reward. Where do we want to go? How much is it worth to us to get there? And thus we can embrace the consequences with a much stronger sense of purposefulness and stewardship of our inner values (and re-chart our courses!).
Secondly, we must remind ourselves that our vessel is much sturdier than we might think. It is not the physical structure on which we sail through churning waters—it is our spirit, our limitless consciousness. So, we begin to develop a tremendous sense of confidence and trust in ourselves. We begin to relate to the fear–the uncertainty and doubt, the lonliness and feelings of irrelevance in the great ocean—with an abiding sense of assuredness and steadfastness. Hold the wheel, stay the course, steady as she goes.
One of the familiar teachings on the Buddhist path follows thus: To a tiny boat, a wave seems overwhelming. To the ocean, the wave seems insignificant.
And yet, without seemingly inconsequential tides and currents, great swells would not arise in the ocean. “Emptiness is form; form is emptiness.” Thus is the experience of our thoughts, emotions, physical sensations; they define our experience, and yet, they are not us. We are all sailors upon the sea, and have the potential, birthright, and immediate and everpresent capacity to greet the sun, wind and rain with equal regard and response.
From the upcoming book, Mindful You: A Guide To Living & Loving Fearlessly, Consciously And On Purpose