Updated: Sep 4, 2019
I was paddle boarding on Stagecoach Lake yesterday. The weather was stunning, the kind of September day in Colorado that feels like a gift, made more precious by its impermanence. The lake is not huge in comparison to other reservoirs or by great lake standards. However, it is big enough that when I was standing alone on a ten foot paddle board in the middle of the lake, I felt very small.
As boats motored passed me and the wind swept me up in its current, I drifted on the board in the middle of the lake, breathing in the clouds and the tall grasses, feeling contentment and peace wash over me. Then, I had an interesting thought: If I didn't know how to swim, I would be terrified right now.
It struck me that the simple fact of knowing I can swim and that I have a PFD on my board, allowed me to feel safe and contented. If I didn't know those things, I would be having an entirely different experience on the board -- most likely panic, anxiety, worry, doubt or fear.
It made me reflect on how I used to be really scared of my own fear. And how I've talked to other people who are terrified of or exhausted by their own anxious thoughts. How those thoughts can make a person feel very small, like they are drifting all alone on a very small paddle board in the middle of a large lake. If that person did not know there was a deeper feeling underneath the thinking, a space within that quietly guides us back home, then those fears or anxious thoughts would look very real and scary. Like being stuck in the middle of a lake without knowing how to swim.
This is not a post about feeling the fear and doing it anyway. This is radically different. I'm suggesting that we can use the insecure feelings as a sign that we have drifted away from our center, like a navigational tool. That when we feel fear, worry, or doubt it is not a cue to investigate the why behind those feelings. It is simply a sign that we have drifted from shore, away from our inner wisdom.
Just as a runny nose is a sign that our physical health has been compromised by a cold, insecure feelings are merely a sign that our mental health has been compromised. We can use feelings of fear or worry as information that we have strayed from our home base, the innate feeling of mental health.
"Every human being is sitting in the middle of mental health – they just don't know it." ~Sydney Banks
There is a homeostasis setting for our thinking, it wants to level out at a reasonable volume. No matter the challenges that I am currently experiencing, there is a place underneath where I can feel grounded even when my head is spinning. I just have to know that is how it works, drop trying to fix my thinking, and let it naturally reset.
I'm sure you've felt it. You know when you're really worked up about something and you take three deep breaths and you feel better? Or you take a break or vacation from a stressful situation and when you return, your thinking has settled?
In various fields of study, there is a word for the invisible energy that animates life. In physics, it's called energy. In health, it's called life force. In religion, it's called the divine or god. In other fields, it's called source. In meditation, it's called head space.
I can touch or feel that space when I'm not caught up in my thinking. I used to think I had to meditate, or run 50 miles, or do yoga to feel it. I'm beginning to understand that it's always there and I can drop into it simply by knowing it's there, without having to effort at it.
It's similar to having the knowledge that I can swim in order to make me feel calm when I'm alone on a tiny paddle board in the middle of a large lake.
This knowledge of having a home base has truly changed my life. The coolest part about it is that I don't have to effort as much. I don't have to do anything. Simply the knowledge that it is there can help me drop underneath of my insecure thinking. When I'm worried about something, I know that I'm simply caught up in my worried thinking. The worried thinking doesn't mean anything about my life. It simply means that I have wandered away from my home base feeling of joy and contentment. .
The content of our thoughts is less meaningful than the fact that we think. We think all day long-- high thoughts, low thoughts, boring thoughts, interesting thoughts. Our thought is transient. We tend to pick up on thoughts that we think our meaningful and give them more weight than necessary. For instance, oh no there is a worried thought, that must mean something. I will worry about the worried thought until it weighs me down and feels very heavy.
When we begin to see our thoughts as ripples on the surface of the lake, we can rest in the knowing that there is a deeper mind in the water below. There is peace, calm and contentment -- a quiet space within -- the farther we go below the surface of our personal thinking.
Insecure thinking such as worry, anxiety, doubt, and fear are simply thought-feelings that are guiding us back home. The content is arbitrary. There is no need to panic. Simply knowing that there is a home base, or knowing that you can swim, is often enough to bring us back to the natural state of well being that always rests within.