Friday, January 3, 2014

The promise of the sea

“You find what you love and you learn everything about it. You bet your life on what you know and run from safety, off your mountain into the air, trusting the Principle of Flight to bring you soaring up on lift you cannot see with your eyes.”  
~Richard Bach

During a seaside vacation last month, I ventured beyond the fierce push pull of the breaking waves to swim in the balmy embrace of the sea beyond, where the movement of the waves feels like the gentle rocking of a cradle. After a while I cautiously floated on my back and with increasing confidence consciously refrained from paddling and treading water, letting my limbs go weightless. Letting only the salty buoyancy of the water support me. A sea shavasana.  An infinity of blue sky above me and an infinity of blue sea around me. The temptation was strong in the periphery of the mind to lift my head to make sure I wasn't drifting too far out, or some monster wave wasn't heading my way, but I let myself surrender deeper into the keeping of the sea. It felt like being cradled in the primordial womb of the earth whose water is as warm and salty as our own blood and tears, and the rhythm of the ceaseless wash of the waves akin to the throbbing of our own heart. I was at one with the universe, freefalling into the quiet centre within to touch the harmony underlying all of life.

So it is in life that we're often at a crossroads where the heart urges you to venture into the unknown trusting things unseen, but the mind would have you believe that this is folly, to put your faith instead in the comfortable material certainties of this world. Most of us follow our minds, which is why one of the top five biggest regrets of the dying is, "I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself".

In Baba's ashram, one would wake at the crack of dawn to wait for hours in serpentine queues, followed by sitting cross legged on the hard stone floor for darshan, which might or might not be forthcoming depending on whether Baba came out that day or not. His answer? "Love My uncertainty!" A profound spiritual training.

The courage to live a life true to oneself involves an unreserved trust in that deep harmony underlying all life, comfort with not knowing, an acceptance of risk, and a willingness to live with (if not love!) uncertainty. It requires a radical openness to the whole of life, the seeming good and bad, knowing that no matter what the appearance, one is never forsaken.

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes, "The opposite of samsara is when all the walls fall down, when the cocoon completely disappears and we are totally open to whatever happens, with no withdrawing, no centralizing ourselves. This is what we aspire to, the warrior's journey. This is what stirs us: leaping, being thrown out of the nest, going through the initiation rites, growing up, stepping into something that's uncertain and unknown. Tuning in to that groundless feeling is a way of remembering that basically, you do prefer life and warriorship to death."

The sea taught me that when I give up frantically treading water and depending on my own puny efforts to keep myself afloat, the entire might of the sea holds me up. So too in the sea of life, I'm grateful for the experiences that teach me to unclench the mind's white-knuckled need for control and drop into the space of the heart. As I release my grip on the planned, the calculated, and the known, the sea assures me that "underneath are the everlasting arms".