Imagine this. It’s hot, too hot to think. You feel irritable, even a little foggy. The sun beats down on you and you long for some shade, a cool breeze, and maybe a scoop of Karamel Sutra. (If you live in the U.S., you don’t have to imagine, you are living it.)
Every day for the past ten days, I’ve headed to the lake for a plunge. Something about the word plunge appeals to me. I walk in up to my knees. Kids are splashing and screaming, and babies are crying around me. Wave runners are humming, and I can hear the thumping bass from the wakeboard boats out on the horizon—the waves from the boat chop push against me and rage against the shore.
I raise my arms over my head, and I “plunge” into the cool water and arc down below the surface where everything peels away – the noise, the dirt, and sweat on my skin and the chaos. It is silent and cool and I take a few extra strokes before coming up for air.
I break free of the surface and feel the sun on my face, but the noise and chaos around me don’t feel as prominent, and it doesn’t affect me as it did 15 seconds ago.
I can get back to work. The density of the heat weighing on my brain is gone. It feels like a clear morning again after a few hours, so I can handle what is ahead of me.
I didn’t realize how my daily swim routine affected me until I read something about Transcendental Meditation (TM) that made me stop and pay attention. The philosophy behind TM is that the brain is like an ocean, choppy and wavy on the surface. That’s the stories we get mired in – the garbage that drags us down when we feel let down by a co-worker or an email that came through with just that tone that lights our day on fire. The surface is the monkey mind. Oh, the imagination we have in our monkey minds!
Deep in the sea below is a beautiful landscape with corals and stunning fishes and, most of all, pure silence and quiet.
It reminds me of the day I took a resort scuba diving class with my mom in Key West. We spent all morning learning the basics of scuba diving in a swimming pool, which, in hindsight, is not nearly enough time before they take you out to the sea and push you off the back of the boat in four-foot swells. My mask had pushed off my face, the tank weighed a ton and I could barely tread water to stay above the surface. I saw my mom getting back into the boat, and I began to panic. Then, I put my mask on, oxygen coming in effortlessly, and I sank below the surface. As instructed, I swam to the boat’s bow and took the bow line to sink 25 feet to the sea floor, where complete calm was restored.
The idea is the more you access that deep and quiet, the more you bring it onto the surface of your everyday life.
I’m not espousing TM, but I am suggesting that the stories we tell ourselves on the surface change very much when we dive below, where we find much undiscovered quiet and beauty.
Also, I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “espouse” before. Extra credit for me! Give yourself that break. The stories are more interesting beneath the surface.
Take care out there.
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