YOU CAN LEARN TO SURF BUT YOU CAN'T STOP THE WAVES.
It is a commonly held view that meditation is a way to shut off the pressures of the world or of your own mind, but this is not an accurate impression.
Meditation is neither shutting things out nor off. It is seeing things clearly, and deliberately positioning yourself differently in relationship to them.
People who come to our clinic quickly learn that
stress is an inevitable part of life. While it is true that we can learn, by making intelligent choices, not to make things worse for ourselves in certain ways, there are many things in life over which we have little or no control. Stress is part of life, part of being human, intrinsic to the human condition itself.
But that does not mean that we have to be victims in the face of large forces in our lives. We can learn to work with them, understand them, find meaning in them, make critical choices, and use their energies to grow in strength, wisdom, and compassion.
A willingness to embrace and work with what is lies at the core of all meditation practice.
One way to envision how mindfulness works is to think of your mind as the surface of a lake or of the ocean. There are always waves on the water.
Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are almost imperceptible.
The water's waves are churned up by winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do the winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up waves in our minds.
People who don't understand meditation think that it is some kind of special inner manipulation which will magically shut off these waves so that the mind's surface will be flat, peaceful, and tranquil.
But just asvyou can't put a glass plate on the water to calm the waves, so you can't artificially suppress the waves ofbyour mind, and it is not too smart to try. It will only create more tension and inner struggle, not calmness.
That doesn't mean that calmness is unattainable. It's just that it cannot be attained by misguided attempts to suppress the mind's natural activity.
It is possible through meditation to find shelter from much of the wind that agitates the mind.
Over time, a good deal of the turbulence may die down from lack of continuous feeding. But ultimately the winds of life and of the mind will blow, do what we may.
Meditation is about knowing something about this and how to work with it. The spirit of mindfulness practice was nicely captured in a poster of a seventy-ish yogi, Swami Satchitananda, in full white beard and flowing
robes atop a surfboard riding the waves off a
The caption read: "You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf."