Those of you who have progressed some way into the meditations will be familiar with the metaphor of the mind as the ocean. It is an ancient metaphor, and it has stood the test of time for very good reason: it is wonderfully evocative, and extremely apt.
Draw to mind if you will the surface of the ocean. Let’s make it a dramatic picture, let’s make the most of this: let’s make the picture one of the Southern Ocean.
And let’s add some interest to the picture: let’s put a storm into our southern ocean. The wind is blowing a hurricane - in nautical terms, it is blowing dogs off chains: and it is pushing up against the constant rhythm of those huge ocean swells, changing their shape, making them higher and higher, steeper and steeper, until eventually they topple and break, surging in a spray of white surf into thundering rollers.
And still the wind persists, tearing the tops off the rollers, throwing spray and foam through the air at terrifying speed.
The air is filled with sound, a cacophony of wind and spray and thundering surf; the sound of rain lashing - at times the rain is blown so hard by the wind it travels sideways. The sky is a picture of angry conflict: dark, grey clouds, shredded by the howling wind, scud across a background of black storm clouds.
And then on occasion a flash of lightning illuminates the boats caught in the midst of this tempest; small fishing vessels, decks awash with water as their bows plunge into the waves ahead; wind whistling through the rigging of their nets, men in bright orange overalls sodden and dripping, yelling at each other in encouragement and exhortation - in fear. Larger boats, a cruise liner full of people in equal parts sick and terrified, holding hands and biting their lips.
And all the while, beneath this scene of chaos, of stress and anxiety, in the depths of the ocean there is calm, there is tranquility. Nothing moves, all is silent.
Imagine, if you can, yourself floating gently there in the peace and serenity of the depths of the ocean. Warm, supported, your arms and legs floating weightlessly, your hair waving free. Here, there is no stress, there is no anxiety. Here in the depths beneath the surface, all is calm. No matter what happens on the surface of the ocean, all is calm beneath: always. Nothing disturbs this tranquility.
And so it is with the mind.
At the surface of our minds is all the busyness of the day, all the activity: the stress, the anxiety, sometimes reaching the level it seems of a huge storm in the southern ocean. But, beneath this, no matter how much busyness, stress, and anxiety there is in our daily lives, lies the vast serene calmness of our minds.
It is always there; sometimes, perhaps most of the time, we are so caught up in and so concerned with the surface, with the busyness, that we forget about the calm. We forget it is even there.
But it is.
And this is one of the gifts of meditation: it allows us to experience the serenity of our minds in meditation sessions; and it also allows us to train to be aware of it post-meditation. Such a wonderful, calming, steadying state: when something goes wrong, when the chips are down … to be aware, really aware, that behind all of this there is a central core to of us that is always peaceful and tranquil.
And, if we practice more and patiently, we may go further than awareness - we may actually experience this deep serenity post-meditation; not just be aware of it, but experience it as we go about our daily lives, as something that is there, tangible; to feel it all the time as a permanent reality.
What a way to be!
A new way of being. A better way of being.
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