Sitting Like a Buoy
- Sunday, 12 April 2009
"Under heaven nothing is more soft and yielding than water.
Yet for attacking the solid and strong, nothing is better;
It has no equal.
The weak can overcome the strong;
The supple can overcome the stiff.
Under heaven everyone knows this,
Yet no one puts it into practice."
— Tao Te Ching 78
Let’s practice a meditation that will help us maintain our suppleness and balance.
Sit comfortably upright. Loosen any tight or restrictive clothing, and begin to relax.
Take a few slow deep breaths. Let the air out slowly as you exhale. Let the air come back in when it needs to. Let it come at its own speed, and let your lungs fill just as much as they need to. Give your lungs permission to pause between the in breath and the out breath. Don’t hold your breath, but allow an openness to occur there if it will.
Let go of any thoughts you’ve been clinging to, and as new ones arise, just notice them and let them flow on by. You don’t need to do anything about them. Your thoughts are transitory, like the foam that forms on the crest of a wave. It is there, and then it is gone. No need to do anything with it. No need to do anything with your thoughts as you sit here quietly.
Imagine that you are sitting like a buoy in a great body of water. The buoy is buoyant. It floats on the surface of the water when the water is calm, and it floats there when the water is disturbed.
The buoy is connected to the earth by a strong but flexible cable. The buoy can be pushed over, but it will always right itself. Righting itself takes no effort. It always returns to its balance point. It is drawn upright by its natural tendency to float, and it is pulled downward by its natural tendency to sink. Its greatest mass is below the surface, and this makes it stable.
As you sit, feel your alignment with the center of the earth. Imagine a line of force between the center of your mass and the heavy iron core of the planet. Sway side to side and front to back just a little, so that you can feel your centering line.
Now sit in alignment with that gravitational force. When we are aligned with gravity we can stay upright with no effort. When we start to feel an effort to stay upright, we can know that we are out of balance. If you find yourself unbalanced, just notice the sensation, and seek the balance once again.
Sit with your weight low. Let your legs and hips be the ballast that stabilizes the rest of your body. Allow them to relax into the gravity that keeps you down.
Imagine that your head and upper body just naturally float above your lower body. Let this imagining draw your body into a comfortable upright position. Your spine is your connection between your ballast and your floatation. It should be comfortably erect but supple.
Now let this natural buoyancy apply to your mind. Water is an excellent metaphor for the mind or for spirit. The depths of the water easily represents the unconscious.
The turbulence of surface water can represent your conscious thoughts. Notice if your conscious mind is choppy or calm. How much are you being battered by the flow of thoughts? Take your time and continue to breathe calmly. Let your mind find its balance. Let the thoughts flow by. They wash up against your constantly centering mind, but they only deflect your consciousness momentarily. You bring your awareness back to the quiet balance point each time it is disturbed by a wave of thought. With the rising and falling of your breath, you become ever more centered in body and mind.
Below the surface of your thoughts, become aware of the vast depths of your unconscious mind. All of your memories, all the images you have seen in dreams, all of your mental habits, all of your conditioned responses, all of the knowing of your body lie in this deep ocean of mind. Away from the light of awareness, it can seem dark and forbidding, yet it is a resource of great abundance. Look down there. See what floats up into the light.
Look at any thoughts or images that appear with interested non-attachment. See what’s there, and notice any emotions that arise with the thought forms, but don’t become over involved with them or let them carry you away. Sit in your buoyant calm. Find the stillness of those deep waters.
Finally, affirm to yourself that you are well anchored, that you are equipped to weather life’s storms. As you rise and go about your day, carry this sense of buoyancy with you. Stay flexible, adaptable, grounded, and in the flow.
Tom Barrett's website is Interlude: An Internet Retreat