“Being fully present isn’t something that happens once and then you have achieved it; it’s being awake to the ebb and flow and movement and creation of life, being alive to the process of life itself…” — Pema Chodron
By Nicole Taher
The ocean is an endless supply of water that is always moving, ebbing and flowing. When we are in it, we feel the movement of the current, of waves pushing us as the grounding sea floor leaves our feet. Uncertainty can bring on excitement, fear or frustration. When we are in the water, there is no certainty of what will happen next which may affect on our emotions and thus we are constantly called to adapt quickly without realizing reactivity naturally occurs. Emotions are abstract and absent of logic. It can be challenging at times to know what to do with them.
Only recently is emotional intelligence being recognized as a necessary discipline to teach our youth, which is great news for the future. More and more schools are adapting to the understanding that emotional intelligence is just as significant to cognitive development as logic and language.
As adults, we often discover that navigating our emotions is hardly a smooth sail. We naturally tend to want to avoid the bumpy waters entirely.
For a person who might have an inclination for escapism, the desire might be to avoid discomfort altogether by turning to external variables such as substances, or distractions such as shopping or social media, (which can create addictions) yet for others discomfort kickstarts a spiral of intense destructive thought processes that are usually tied to the future or past (which can cause depression).
These protective strategies of the mind are devised so that we avoid having to face the difficult emotions that arise from bumpy waters, here in this moment. Much like the ocean, our lives are filled with constant change. The weather changes, our situations change, relationships, other people, our bodies change. Things around us are always in flux and each time something shifts we have a tendency to meet the change with resistance by adjusting our sails. It is our nature as human beings to want to adjust things in a way that we believe will bring us happiness, as if happiness exists only in a fixed manner. We tend to want to be everywhere but here and resist the present moment by gravitating toward what we are familiar with especially if we find discomfort in the present. Anything from a headache to a break up to being stuck in traffic usually has our thoughts on the past or an imagined future. We are either fixated on the possible scenarios about what may happen or we are unable to let go of what did happen — either hoping to recreate it, or fearful that the uncomfortable or traumatic past will repeat itself. All of these mind patterns are a fixation on what is not now. When we attach to what was or what we hope will be, we are clinging to things that do not exist right now and essentially, not reality.
The key to establishing more ease in life is by cultivating a sense of awareness and compassion for what is arising in us in the present moment and meeting change and uncertainty with a welcoming sense of awareness in whatever seas we are in.
It is through facing the stormy seas within ourselves that peace is attained as awareness leads to stillness.
Awareness gives us the opportunity to dig deeper into the stormy seas, in our minds, within our bodies, and in our heart, as we investigate the experience and cultivate a connection with the experience with kindness.
One watches a river flow by. If he does not wish it to flow, to change ceaselessly in accord with its nature, he will suffer great pain. Another understands that nature of the river is to change constantly, regardless of his likes and dislikes, and therefore he does not suffer. To know existence as this flow, empty of lasting pleasure, void of self, is to find that which is stable and free of suffering, to find true peace in the world. -Ajahn Chah
Instead of moving away from it, by facing the storm, we are establishing a deeper connection to life and others in a more meaningful way by responding to the present moment without reactivity. The less caught up we are trying to adjust our sails in reaction to what happens, the more we can settle into what is happening and investigate our resistance, the more ease we may have. Investigating deeper into the nature of stress and reactivity of why become stressed out, angry or upset is the beginning of the freedom from it. When we allow ourselves to be fully present, our critical mind takes a backseat and our heart is able to feel and -be with- what is actually happening moment to moment.
If we get caught in emotions that may arise from waves of thoughts, bring it back to the feeling of being in the present moment and ask yourself constantly “how is it now?” “Can I tolerate it?” Often when we check in, we find that it really is not all that bad and actually quite awesome.