“And there’s too much going on but it’s calm under the waves, in the blue of my oblivion.” – ‘Sullen Girl’, Fiona Apple
When swimming in the ocean, I’ve read that one valuable skill needed is the ability to know when to dive under a wave and not swim into it. Swimming into it only pushes you back toward the shore and if you’re goal is to get further out into the ocean, you will need to go under the wave and allow it to pass over you while you swim further along under the water. Why? Well, the wave is occurring on the surface of the ocean and is going against the direction you are swimming while the water near the ocean bottom is going out to sea. Under the surface of the wave, things are calmer and moving in your desired direction. Think of all the energy you would expend trying to swim through a wave, especially when they come one after another pretty quickly. You’ll be exhausted before you get very far. At worst, you’ll feel like you’re drowning. Life can definitely feel this way at times, like we’re getting slapped with wave after wave until we’re exhausted and not getting anywhere. Going under usually brings to mind the image of drowning or succumbing to it all in some kind of defeated way. So, let’s redefine it and understand that consciously and purposefully going under can be the smartest thing we can do in times like these.
Overwhelm with our life experiences can feel like the waves thrashing us around and taking us over. At least I know it feels like that for me, and if there is anything that is in my awareness fully right now it is how often I do feel this way. I admit I haven’t been very good at knowing what to do when life is hitting me hard. I fight it, I complain about it, I let it beat me up and then I get used to the feeling and walk around like a tight bundle of nerves ready to lose my mind as if this were normal. If we don’t have the skills to deal with these stresses, we end up losing a lot of our vital life energy, and that is what has been happening to me. I realized that all the energy needed to move forward in my life is expended in dealing with the stresses of life.
The thing to grasp here is the understanding that there is a calm we can get to under the surface of all life’s tumult and movement. Knowing how to access that calm is the valuable tool we need to acquire. Now, I’m not sure what Fiona was singing about exactly in her song “Sullen Girl”, but I love the image her words create…”it’s calm under the waves in the blue of my oblivion.” Oblivion is a forgetting or a lack of awareness, which is just what we need to cultivate in such times. So, all of this overwhelm we feel may just come from too much focus on the very things that are slapping us around. If we dive under all of that, the calm is available to us as we become unaware, even for just a bit, of all the circumstances apparent on the surface of our life. How do we do that? How do we shift our awareness away from the chaos and circumstances and onto something deeper and more real within us? We do it by accessing that part of us that is deeper than our daily lives, our to do lists, our deadlines, the pressures of meeting others’ needs, our financial obligations, etc. Essentially it is a place in us where stress is quieted and allowed to move like the wave above us until it passes. We remain unmoved while it passes through the experience of our life. Our surface mind will want to hit it head on like the wave, but our deeper level of knowing understands that it is just a passing moment and not a permanent reality. Our permanent reality is that stillness of the deeper ocean. We access that deeper reality when we sit quietly in meditation or even take a conscious moment to decide to see the wave for what it is and go under it even for a moment as a quick reminder of our real nature as the still ocean.
I think this is why vacations are so popular. They give us time to forget the too much that is going on and live from our deeper and relaxed stillness. The only problem with this is the part about having to come back to the shore and start that swim all over again. How do we stay in that deeper and still spot more permanently? We practice. We practice diving under and swimming further along in the calm until we get to the place in the ocean of our inner lives where there aren’t any more waves. Notice I said in our inner lives not our outer lives, because when we get to that place in our inner lives then whatever is happening on the surface of our lives moves us very little. If we do get caught in the waves and feel ourselves getting beaten up a bit, we can go back to our practice and relax into it while it passes. We do this knowing that less resistance equals less pain and frustration.
As the last few weeks have been filled with overwhelm for me, I am learning how to moment by moment go right to that inner place in the blue of my own oblivion where the calm can be felt instantaneously. I had to painfully remember that focusing on the waves only makes it feel as if the waves are coming harder and stronger and will never give me a moment to catch my breath. It’s important to let seeming stresses fall from my awareness long enough to remember who I really am. From that place I can rise to the surface again with enough inner strength and fortitude to handle whatever comes my way next. What is also wonderful about this is that most likely whatever was challenging me will have resolved itself, gotten taken care of easily, or I will now be able to meet the challenge of it from my still mind and not my chaotic mind.
There are many tools and technologies we can use to practice what I’m speaking about here and here are just a few: Meditation, prayer, Emotional Freedom Technique Tapping, Quantum Entrainment, mindfulness, rest/sleep, exercise, and many more.
If you’d like to learn more or continue this conversation, find out more about what I do here.