This article was originally posted on the HuffingtonPost.
It was one of those startling moments where I realized I might be in quite some serious trouble. No matter how fast I swim I am not getting any closer to the beach.
It is the early 80’s and I am holidaying with my dad in Rio.
We are at Copa Cabana beach. While my dad is relaxing on the beach I decide to go for a refreshing swim. The water is fantastic and doing its job of cooling me down from the burning sun above.
Once I start swimming back to shore I notice something is off. I am not advancing. No matter how much I try the current is too strong to allow me to swim back to land.
Realizing this I get a sinking feeling in my stomach. I tell myself to remain calm while gazing towards the beach to find my dad.
I consider calling out to him but am afraid he might swim out to come and get me. Why would he manage to swim back with this current himself is the question running through my mind. Perhaps though he will get help first? Shit. What should I do?
I look to my right and see a lot of waves converge a couple of hundred meters further along the beach. Perhaps the current is moving towards the beach there? Should I try to swim in that direction?
I am already quite a bit out of breath and getting tired. Will I manage to make it to there?
Considering my options I decide to stop swimming and start treading water. Then, the unexpected happens. My feet touch the sand. How is this possible? I’m still a quite a bit away from the beach so I must be above a sandbank. Yes!
I manage to propel myself forward using my legs and my arms and slowly make headway in direction of the beach.
To my big relief, the current is less strong as the sandbank drops away from me again and I manage to swim back to safety.
That moment of my feet touching the sandbank and the support it provided me has stayed with me since. It represents to me that support and higher wisdom we get access to by taking a moment to become still.
Whenever I need to, I create my own sandbank by cultivating presence and resting in the realm of stillness.
That stillness is always a source of support. It is what leads the mind to a point of calmness and clarity.
That is how I find I get access to insights and answers that help me thrive.
I have found that decisions made from a calm state of mind are always the right ones. A calm mind allows me to accept and respond to what I experience in life, rather than react to it.
A calm mind is one that is stable and is never disturbed, no matter what happens.
How do we get access to a calm clear mind?
- Practice total acceptance
Tap into the power of total acceptance. Let go of any resistance and any expectations. Practice being with what is.
Have you ever noticed in moments such as seeing a beautiful sunset a sense of peace and clarity welling up within you? Everything feels just right?
In such moments there is nothing within you that wants the situation to be different.
You’ll find that by practicing total acceptance you develop absolute clarity and insight on how to respond to life.
It doesn’t mean you don’t address things you need to deal with. In fact, you’ll be better able to perceive the truth of matters and know what the right action is to take.
Every day spend some moments practicing consciously accepting your environment for what it is. All the sounds, temperature, and anything else you may perceive.
Now do the same for your body, accepting all physical sensations, comforts, and discomforts.
Finally become aware of your mind and practice accepting your thoughts for what they are.
With regular practice, you’ll find total acceptance becoming second nature to you.
- If you don’t breathe right you don’t think right – so breathe right
The breath and the mind are intricately related. Our state of mind is reflected in the quality of our breath. By changing how we breathe we can, in turn, change the state of our mind.
Try this – settle somewhere where you can sit upright and breathe freely.
Spend a few short moments allowing yourself to rest. Pay attention to the natural flow of your breath without you shaping or forcing it in any way.
After a few moments count the length of your next natural inhalation and then breathe out for the same count. You do this by adjusting the speed of your out-breath. You either slow it down or speed it up so that the length of both the in-breath and the out-breath are equal to each other.
Make your breath as smooth, even and regular as possible. Without any irregularities, gaps, or even sounds.
Do this for a few minutes. It helps you to cultivate an equanimous and settled mind.
- Rest in stillness
Embrace and practice the art of silent sitting. Make an appointment with yourself and connect with that deep inner silence within you.
First thing upon waking, sit up and capture the silence for one minute. Notice the difference it makes to your day.
Next to that, take up a daily meditation practice of sitting in stillness.
Focus your mind on the space between your eyebrows – somewhat inside your head.
Simply sit quietly and focus on a sense of expansion and stillness in that inner space for as long as is comfortable.
A nice well-rounded practice is to go through these three steps of total acceptance, regulating your breath and sitting in stillness as a sequence.
With regular practice, you will notice your mind becoming more clear more of the time.
Accessing clarity by choice
Whenever you find you need clarity to questions you have you can experiment with the following.
Take an empty piece of paper and in the middle write a question you have. Circle that question.
As you close your eyes hold that question in your mind. Then let the question go and do the sequence above for even just a few minutes.
As soon as you decide to open your eyes gaze at the sheet of paper and write down any insights you have. Just write down anything that comes up. Don’t judge, just unload onto the paper.
The moment you have clarity on any next steps take action straight away. Put your clarity into action!