• Jan Rybeck

Becoming the Ocean

I am a land lover.

Given a choice between vacationing at the beach or heading to the mountains, I’ll pick the high dry ground all the time. Not that I don’t love a dramatic sunset over the bay, or walk along the beach at low tide. There is something about the layers of history and place shaped by bizillions of invisible biological, geological, and meteorological happenings that make me feel at home. I know the water has all of those too, but I appreciate them more when not in the form of sand in my food.

And fish gross me out.

Well, maybe not fish per se, but how they exist in such vastness, beyond anything I could fathom… as in depths I could never hope to measure with my own knowing.

But let’s be real here, don’t we all exist in depths beyond knowing? Aren’t we all swimming amidst waves of good times and bad, pain and pleasure, companionship and solitude, fortune and failure?

Even though I long for, even cling to at times, paths that keep my feet on solid ground so I can “know where I stand”, I am aware of needing to let go into the current and trust in the ebb and flow. My “knowing”, after all, distills into impermanence, just as the molecules of the supposed ground beneath my feet continually move and shift. It is all fleeting, illusion, and a reminder that, in the end, we don’t get to keep or really know any of this. This just is.

Leonard Cohen, of blessed memory, said, “until you become the ocean, you will be seasick every day.”

His words were with me during the last week of a meditation teacher training program. It had been an unusually challenging week of silence as I had just come to the realization of how much was actually working out well in my family’s life. I was feeling immense gratitude and joy and struggling to be still. I usually love the quiet and space of these weeks of silence, but my inner snoopy dance was alive and kicking and dying to be unleashed.

I brought my delightful dilemma to my mentor, secretly hoping she would join in my jubilation. Instead she said.. “this too shall pass”.

Oh shit.

What a buzz kill.

And oh yeah! I felt it, right then and there, the jerkiness of the ocean waves, the seasickness that comes with a party boat’s wake.

The moment I began to hold onto, identify with, make plans to secure the joy I was experiencing, I was setting myself up.

I set out to see what it took to become the ocean.

It did not take long. During the very next meditation session, we were invited to “find the courage to be still.” While stillness was alluding me that week, linking it with courage, as in tapping into my cor or heart, allowed me to fully be in that moment, beyond my knowing to experiencing and feeling of all that is right then and there. It allowed me to be in the depths, drink in the fullness of what I felt and let it fill parts of my being seldom touched or exposed in my day to day world. I could actually sit with it all and feel sated, full. And in that deep fullness, came an unusual buoyancy, the capacity to both be in the depths and not drown.

Being the ocean, it turns out, feels a lot like practicing being with what is in each moment …riding the experience while staying engaged while it shifts and rolls into the next. Expectation and want move over to make way for what is real in that moment, and I don’t think you can get any more grounded than that.

What happens when you sit still for a moment?

What do you notice arising? How might you meet that experience as you would a friend, as if it were fresh and familiar at the same time?

What gets you spun up, like a frothy wave in a stormy sea? What happens when you consider that the wave is just water, the emotions just energy churned up in this moment only?

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