“Breathing in, I see myself as still water. Breathing out, I reflect things as they are.
Near the mountain, there is a lake with clear, still water reflecting the mountain and the sky with pristine clarity. You can do the same. If you are calm and still enough, you can reflect the mountain, the blue sky, and the moon exactly as they are. You reflect whatever you see exactly as it is, without distorting anything.
When we see things or listen to other people, we often don’t see clearly or really listen. We see and hear our projections and our prejudices. We are not clear enough, and we have a wrong perception. Even if our friend is giving us a compliment, we may argue with him because we distort what he says.
If we are not calm, we only listen to our hopes or our anger. We will not be able to receive the truth that is trying to reflect itself on our lake. We need to make our water still if we want to receive reality as it is. If you feel agitated, don’t do or say anything. Just breathe in and out until you are calm enough. Then ask your friend to repeat what he has said. This will avoid a lot of damage. Stillness is the foundation of understanding and insight. Stillness is strength.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh, from Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living
I’ve been waking up feeling heavy lately…remnants of bad dreams swirl in my head, producing heavy sighs and plenty of ego indulgent confusion, hurt feelings, feelings of being rejected, and loneliness. They hang over me like storm clouds, making my thoughts fuzzy and my heart race, and it’s ripe territory for the ‘woe is me’ storytelling that the ego likes to do. It’s easy to make negative assumptions when we don’t have answers, instead of simply accepting that sometimes there are no answers to be had. But our brains demand to make sense of things, so we ruminate, misinterpret, storytell and suddenly we are no longer dealing with any sort of truth. Instead we’ve produced a heavily produced ‘reality’ show that we call truth, full of projections, judgments and conclusions that serve whatever story we like to tell ourselves.
Like Thich Nhat Hanh says above, the only way to gain understanding and insight is to be still. How do we begin? With the breath. Through meditation. We let those storm clouds pass, even just for a few moments, breathing in peace and exhaling love. We must stay with it, day after day. Some days will be easier than others and it is hard to stay determined with the ego barking in our ear.
My mantra for today is: Be still. Not in the body, but in the ‘monkey mind’ that likes to jump around from assumption to assumption, trying to convince me that I’m not enough. I invite you to find peace through stillness in your world today as well. Namaste.