Sunday, September 4, 2011

Staying Afloat

“If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace.”
-Ajahn Chah

Several years ago my mother-in-law was vacationing at the beach.  While out for an early evening walk, she noticed a young boy swimming and splashing in a creek that ran along the beach. The creek was subject to the same currents and tides as the ocean and upon taking a closer look, she noticed that the boy wasn't actually splashing playfully but was struggling to keep his head above water. No one seemed to be supervising the boy and there was no one else around so she called out to the boy and asked him if he was ok.  The boy shook his head "no", so my mother-in-law jumped in the creek, clothes and all and swam out to the child. It didn't take her long to realize that the boy was stuck in a rip current and that she was caught up in it as well.

Riptides, or "rip currents", are long, narrow bands of water that quickly pull any objects in them away from shore and out to sea. They are dangerous but are relatively easy to escape if you stay calm. There are about 100 riptide related deaths per year in the United States, but most of these deaths are not caused by the tides themselves. People often become exhausted struggling against the current and cannot make it back to shore.  The key to escaping riptides is not to struggle against the current.

So, my mother-in-law grabbed the boy and tried to swim across the creek to safety to no avail. She was beginning to get tired.  The boy was exhausted. Thankfully, a man passing by called out to her and told her not to swim against the current, but rather to swim out of it by swimming parallel to the shore.  This is an exercise in trust. It can be scary to go with the flow of something so strong, but once my mother-in-law began to do this, she was released from the strong current and was able to get herself and the child back to safety.

So often in life it is our willingness to trust and let go of struggle that allows us to live more fully.  This reminded me of a post from the "Daily Om" that I read last month:

"Our lives are continually in motion, buoyed by the wave that is the universe's flow. As the wave rises and falls, we are carried forward, through life's high and low points. The universe's flow may take us to a place in life where we would rather not be. As tempting as it can be to fight the direction and size of this wave that propels us, riding the wave is intended to make life easier. When you ride the wave, your life can evolve naturally and with minimal effort. Riding the wave, however, is not a passive experience. It is an active process that requires you to be attentive, centered, and awake. You must also practice stillness so you can flow with, rather than resist, the wave's motion.

Because life is dynamic and always changing, it is when we try to make the wave stand still or resist its direction that we are likely to get pulled under by its weight. If you try to move against the wave, you may feel as if you are trapped by it and have no control over your destiny. When you reach a low point while riding the wave and find your feet touching bottom, remember to stay standing so that you can leap forward along with the wave the next time it rises. Trying to resist life's flow is a losing proposition and costly because you waste energy.

Riding the wave allows you to move forward without expending too much of your own efforts. When you ride the wave, you are carried by it and your head can stay above water as you go wherever it takes you. It can be difficult to trust the universe and let go of the urge to fight life's flow, and you may find it easier to ride the wave if you can stay calm and relaxed. Riding the wave will always take you where you need to go."

Life will never wholly allow us to float along without getting stuck in the occasional riptide.  Every moment is a chance to let go and feel peaceful. Today, can you practice letting go of the things that you resist?  Can you trust that you will be moved in the direction that you need to go?  

Until next time...