Learning to Trust the Lighthouse

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This morning’s meditation was a response to a Daily Calm user’s question about meditation. The new meditator was learning that her original assumption about meditation was wrong. She always thought the objective of meditation was to calm the mind. But she’s learning – like I am – that the goal of meditation is not to quiet the mind but to focus on the breath to provide an anchor for the mind.

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My “teacher” in this meditation journey says the mind is like the ocean. The mind’s nature is to think just like the nature of the ocean is to have waves. I think of Lake Michigan. Monday’s stormy harbor turns into a flat, calm wake on Tuesday. Every day is different when I walk down to the lighthouse. It amazes me that it’s the same body of water when it looks and feels so different from day-to-day. My focus on my breath is like the lighthouse. It is an anchor that stands steady in contrast to the ever-changing nature of this vast freshwater sea. Sometimes the waves are violently splashing over it. Other days ducks on the surface barely bob.

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A calm day on Lake Michigan

I’ve noticed during meditation that I begin to focus more on my inner life and my body instead of what is going on in my mind and my reaction to it. I suppose it’s sort of like being in a kayak on a stormy Lake Michigan. It could be really scary if I focused on the waves and my lack of control of what’s going on around me. But if I focus on what I’m doing and my paddling, I can react when I need to. I can rely on my confidence in my skills to make decisions and just notice the storm around me. I have to react at times, but I can choose which reactions make sense and which ones would make things worse. Meanwhile, I am my own anchor.

This morning I have a stormy mind. My focus on my breath dimmed the drama a little, but, honestly not by much. My brain is thinking. My body is a bit anxious. My mind wants to worry about work and jump around from thought to thought. I had a few peaceful minutes of anchoring myself to my breath that is always consistent and always there. My meditation did not calm the storm, but my breath was a lighthouse that sat resolutely with no reaction. I can focus on the stormy sea or the lighthouse to get my bearings. I imagine I’ll slither from one to the other a bit today. But I’m starting to learn which one makes me feel better. I always have the choice.

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Yesterday’s practice taught me about using “pause”. The “pause” is a practice where you take three deep breaths whenever you need to feel a little more comfortable. I used it yesterday whenever I thought about it, and it really helped. Each time I did it, I felt a little more grounded and in my body. Maybe you could give it a try today whenever you feel hungry, angry, lonely, tired, anxious or even happy. Just see what happens. There is no goal. The goal is just to breathe.

 

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