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A Mind Like The Ocean: A Practice for Being Free From Stress

One of my favorite metaphors for the fruits of the practice of mindfulness is cultivating a mind that is like an ocean – open and spacious.
Most of us have surely had days where so many things went “wrong” that we felt as though if just one more thing went “wrong”, we would lose it.  I know I’ve certainly had days like that.  It seemed as though the mind was just absolutely full and there wasn’t room to handle even one more frustrating situation.
With the continued practice of mindfulness, we tend to notice that the mind gradually becomes more spacious.   Sometimes, especially while sitting still in mindfulness, the mind seems so expansive and spacious that it is just like a vast ocean, with almost endless room between the thoughts and feelings that arise.
With this spaciousness comes a gradually deepening sense of “There’s room for this.”  We develop a wonderful capacity for being able to be confronted with increasing amounts of challenging situations without losing this sense of, “There’s room for this too.  This is no problem.”
Ultimately, it is insight into the fact that our thoughts and our feelings are not we are that allows the mind to become and remain more spacious.  However, there are some skillful means that we can employ to get a sense of this while sitting in mindfulness.  My favorite practice is to open the mind by becoming aware of and kindly accepting increasingly larger areas around me.
I start with gently smiling to the body sitting in the room I’m in for a few breaths, noticing whatever comes in through the senses.  Then, I continue to expand in the same way to my neighborhood, my town, my state, the country, and then the whole planet.
With a mind that’s more open and spacious, I then return to simply being aware of the mind and body.  I notice that there seems to be a little more space between the thoughts that arise in the mind.  Thus, it becomes easier to actually see or hear a thought arise in the mind, bring it up so it’s fully conscious, and see or hear it fade away, leaving me observing an empty, silent mind.

Seeing thoughts arise and pass away in this way makes it very clear that I am not my thinking.  Thoughts are just things that arise and pass away.  It is this insight into the fact that we are not our thinking that allows the mind to gradually remain more spacious, able to handle increasingly difficult situations in life with perfect peace.

Does your mind often feel as though it’s too busy and full?  Would you like to have a mind like the ocean?

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