Experiencing the deep inner peace which lies at the core of our being is one of the great discoveries of meditation. When people learn to meditate they realise that this doesn’t have to be left to chance, but is something they can learn to do for themselves whenever they choose.
Emotions are like the sea
I have found that one of the best ways to understand emotions is to watch the sea. On a calm day it can be like a pond, totally still and clear. This is what our mind is like when it is balanced and calm. With some wind around, the sea begins to whip up and form waves and then these can build into huge breakers. The gulf near Adelaide is not even open sea, yet storms can whip the sea into such a fury that waves crash against the foreshore and wreak havoc with the jetties. This can be exhilarating if you are watching and are safe, but if you are in the sea at that moment it’s another story all together.
I like to use the image of the sea when talking about thoughts and emotions, seeing them as waves on the sea. In our normal lives we don’t usually take much notice of our thoughts and emotions, and most of the time we go wherever they drive us. They form the undercurrent which drives our lives. This is exactly like floating in the sea, not noticing where the currents are going, and not taking much notice of the waves. Until a big one comes along. Then we notice, as it throws us around, and eventually breaks, taking us with it
The great discovery of meditation is that thoughts and emotions are not our whole minds.There is space between them, and there are times when our minds can be completely free from them. This is the same as discovering that you don’t have to be caught in waves all the time – there is always a beach where you can rest and be free from them.
Finding the beach
Finding the beach is a profound experience, discovering that there is somewhere free from waves, somewhere where it is possible to stay perfectly still and completely relaxed. Knowing that there is a beach makes all the difference to our attitude to the sea. Once we know that there is somewhere free from the pushes and pulls of its currents and waves, we have a totally different attitude to it. We know that when the going gets a bit rough, we can get out and wait for the waves to settle down again.
In Nature the beach is always there, no matter what the sea is doing, and in our own minds, this foundation of deep calm and stillness is always there, always accessible, no matter what state we might be in emotionally. It’s just a matter of knowing how to get there, and how to rest there.
Unlike what many people think about peace, this foundation of deep calm is extremely blissful because it is vibrant and alive. In this state we are in touch with our whole mind and body, and our senses are completely open to the whole world around us. We can afford to watch and listen, smell, taste and feel everything, because we do not have to negotiate the normal emotional upheavals we all experience.
We can then have a much more peaceful relationship with ourselves. with the people we live with and the world around us. In fact, being able to create peace in the world depends totally on being able to create peace in ourselves. And this involves knowing where it is and how to contact it.
Respecting the power of emotions
If we see emotions as powerful, elemental, natural forces we can then bring to them the same respect that we would bring to any other force in nature. Our inner life is as vast as the ocean, and to enter it without maps and the proper preparation can mean becoming lost and stranded. Respecting the forces we are dealing with is, I believe, the best protection we can have against getting caught in them.
By respecting them we can get to know them and so recognise the conditions which bring them about. Like a surfer who stays on the beach watching the waves and currents before entering the ocean, we too can literally rest in the peace of our mind when it is balanced whenever we choose. From here we can see clearly the varied situations in our life before engaging with them.
The tool of meditation provides the ability to rest on the beach, in the still space of our mind, and contact this state of deep, vibrant, blissful peace whenever we choose, simply by knowing how to balance ourselves.
Article by Graham Williams
Lifeflow Meditation Studio and Meditation Australia Board Member