It is said that the ocean is a metaphor for many aspects of life. One could decide to explore the ocean by simply gazing at its beauty, sitting afar on its sandy shores. Hands buried deep in the sand, a few grains flickering on the hand, and a gentle, salty breeze caressing the face.
One could paddle the feet delicately by its white lacy edges – the waves softly massaging the feet. Some go further in and get wet to the knees. Trusting the waves, knowing when to return to the shore. Or surf on the waves, dive in to swim and explore another realm of the mighty ocean.
It all depends on the individual. And the singular exploration will lead to a personal definition of what the ocean epitomizes: strength, adventure, calm, turbulence.
The ocean is sometimes merely a metaphor…
When we get hit by a curveball
Usually, as self-assured individuals, we think it might be a little hard to get ruffled by sudden curveballs. Yet, there are a few situations in life which could throw us off-balance. It could be a simple question such as, what is your relationship with yourself?
That’s like suddenly opening a Pandora’s box. Couldn’t we be asked about our professional qualifications? How about our religious affiliations or the causes we support? But, the relationship question could just draw a blank stare, a hesitant cough or a desperate plea to change the topic.
The relationship with the self could be like the relationship with the ocean. We might decide to view ourselves from afar or swim and understand the majesty of ourselves.
The tiny bubbles released from these explorations could churn up mighty questions: What is the relationship we have with ourselves? Are we people who love ourselves? Or do we engage in constant negative self-talk?
Wherever we are – gazing or swimming – we could benefit by simply re-looking at this relationship and putting in the love that we deserve.
Exploring the relationship
Every person is a natural at something – being a great leader, a good team worker, a natural peace mediator, a mentor. Great insights, the quality of nurturing individuals, patience and skill at understanding people – these are some of the many qualities.
How many of our inner qualities are directed towards ourself? Are we patient with ourself? Do we forgive ourself easily? Are we focussed on self-nurturing?
“Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself. Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home.”
~ Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
The stronger and more loving we are from within, that much more power we have to offer the world. When we operate from a space of love for ourself, we are in a better position to act with love for people around.
This could mean better insights into situations, taking better decisions, learning to give to ourself as much as we give to other people, carving out time for ourself, becoming softer and less cynical.
There are many rewards from this mighty exploration. The first reward of recognizing one’s inner qualities is exalted self-esteem, self-worth, heightened energy and enthusiasm. After that will come the different crowns from the world – respect, admiration, love.
Are we our own hero?
We often expect others to be our heroes. These could be in the form of different situations/events/people. We depend on them to show us the light. Do I plan my life ahead? What are my next projects? Perhaps it is time to simply shift from the passenger’s seat to the driver’s seat. To allow us, the ‘me’ in myself to take a decision, and make some calls. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. It doesn’t matter if tomorrow and yesterday could have been more effective.
Perhaps that’s why the ancient scriptures tell us to understand ourselves first. There is a term in Indian spirituality – swadhyaya – which means self-study.
‘Who am I?
Am I the gender?
Am I the nationality?
What am I made up of?
What is life?’
Swadhyaya essentially means dwelling on basic truths and looking at the fundamental questions of life.
Foe & friend: Two sides of the same coin
A man’s own self is his friend. A man’s own self is his foe. – The Bhagavad Gita
It is said that the mind can create a heaven or hell of its own making. Being too self-critical or harsh on yourself, not loving yourself or feeding some deep complexes, the mind can create a pit with all these thought-making realities. And coming out of such patterns can be challenging. It’s best to become best friends with the mind. To know ourselves, we have to be aware, strong, humble, loving, focused and learn to empathize and be non-judgmental.
“Treat yourself as you would a friend. When you make mistakes, comfort yourself. When you fail, remind yourself of what you would tell a friend: “Everyone makes mistakes.” When you’re overwhelmed with sadness or emotion, observe these emotions as you would those of a friend, and hold yourself with love.”
~ Emma Seppala, Science Director, Stanford Center For Compassion And Altruism Research And Education; Co-Director Wellness, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
A few good ways:
- Enjoy time in your company: Carve a little solitary time. Work distraction-free, put away your phones, close the door and ask people for some time-out. Work in silence or simply observe life from a window. Whatever you do, take out time for yourself. And enjoy yourself and your company.
- Develop hobbies: Cultivating hobbies will add to your day, give your mind a break, make your more creative, and possibly allow more insights into your life.
- Reflecting on life’s truths: A little swadhyaya time will nurture us. Perhaps as we go for our morning walk, or wait to board the train. Ponder over these questions: “Who am I? What am I here for? What are my strengths? Am I using my strengths to cultivate joy in my life?”
“During our lives, we are extremely boxed in worldly goals – career, savings, investments, children and the responsibilities that go with them, retirement plans, various desires. We are not really even wanting to think about goals that are way beyond what we know or what we perceive. Therein lies that sense of incompletion. So, swadhyaya can help break the shackles and open the door to something exalted but subtle, something transcendent, an experience extraordinaire,” shares Dr. Prema Seshadri, a psychologist, meditation teacher, and author.
- Meditate and find the peace for yourself: Science shows that meditation makes us feel calmer, happier, and clearer in the head. It allows us to operate from a space that is compassionate, happy and peaceful. It follows naturally that our actions will be kinder and more giving. Allocate the time and space to meditate every day.
- Be kind to yourself: “We fall for the false notion that self-criticism is essential to self-improvement. Sure self-awareness is a critical skill, but research shows that self-criticism is equivalent to beating yourself up: it brings you down. It is when we exert self-compassion, research shows, that we become happier and more resilient; that we have less anxiety, depression, and stress; and that our relationships with others improve,” says Ms. Seppala.
You could understand that there are wrong turns, but life has got your back. Life has a way of ensuring that you find the path again. It’s a lifelong process and will forever remain so. So jump into your own ocean. Just don’t forget to apply sunblock.
Based on Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s wisdom sheets; Inputs by Dr. Prema Seshadri, faculty member, The Art of Living
This article was first published on The Art of Living website