Friday, January 21, 2011

Riding the Waves

Chloë calls me to the window in the cruise ship cabin to see the waves. She shrieks, "Come look!" The waves are breaking at a sharp acute angle to the side of the ship. Illuminated by the ship's beacons, the frosty white foam contrasts sharply with the vast inky blackness of the ocean beyond.


The cabin itself feels stilll. Before I looked out the window, I could have easily forgotten that we were anywhere but on dry land. Now that I see the big waves crashing so sharply, my heart skips a beat. The waves seem so much bigger than they had earlier in the day when we were up on deck. Yet there has been no detectable change in the amount of movement by the ship. No pitching or rolling. Perhaps it is our proximity down on the lower deck, aided by the contrast of light and dark, that makes them seem so much bigger now.

Looking out the window, my instinct is to panic. I feel an adrenaline rush just as if a sudden danger had been identified, and these huge waves register as Danger in my less-than-seaworthy mind. I can hardly tear myself away from the window, the thrill of the danger is so captivating.

I know it's getting late so I look at the clock in the room. In that instant, I become aware once again of just how still, safe, and calm the cabin feels. I calm down. For a moment. I can't resist the urge to look out at the so-called danger. But as soon as I look out, there it is again. I see the big crashing waves, and I instantly feel that fear and dread again.
There's a lesson for me here. When I focus my attention on something I truly dread (e.g., paying bills), I go into that same place of fear and dread, before I even know if there is any reason to be concerned. Then I pick up a book or play with the kids, and it's gone. When I see signs of what appears to be a dangerous condition, as those big waves could have been for a smaller craft, my habit is to panic without first assessing whether I personally face any real danger at all. Here, I am not. How many other times have I panicked or just frozen up when I faced no real threat or harm at all? I suppose it's human to feel this way. The old fight-or-flight adrenaline rush is programmed into our DNA. So rarely do we have the chance to "fight" what we fear these days (lack of money or being alone, for example), and our options for real flight are limited. I've tried running in all different directions, but the issue is still there when I get back.

Instead of running away, in a physical sense, the opportunity is to turn my attention away from that which is not pleasing to me, according to my good friend Abraham. This is not always easy, just as I found it difficult to look away from the thrill of the big crashing waves. I was taught, as I suppose most of us were, that problems deserve our attention. That the only way to find solutions is to wrangle with problems, give them our undivided attention, and think, worry, and fret until the answer comes.

It's not easy for me now to simply focus on what I do want (a calm, safe cabin) when my mind keeps going back to what dangers are Out There. The lesson of the cabin is to do just the opposite. I direct my attention today to peace, prosperity, love, and health because those are all things that I want. Sounds so easy, doesn't it? I'll let you know how it goes.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for reminding me that what I focus my attention on grows. If I focus on that "danger" then "danger" is what grows in my mind, my life and the world around us. If I focus on the love, beauty and peace around me then that is what grows!

    In love and light
    Celina

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