Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
01 03 2023
The first blog of the new year is on being (like) water and staying in movement. So let us begin.
On the 4th Week of my MBSR: Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program, we cover the topic “What is Stress?” The chapter of the MBSR Handbook on Stress has the preceding quote from Tao Te Ching. In nature, life, universe, all beings are in constant motion. Electrons are always on the go, planets keep revolving and moving, each cell of our bodies vibrate and are in contact with every other cell..In one of my walks here in Berlin, near a lake, when I saw the silent clear movement of the current in part of the lake, this is what came to my mind. It flows but/and does not hurry. It stays in movement, in harmony with its surrounding..
In ancient traditions of wisdom, nature is observed with care because nature reveals the secret workings of the universe. Among the wisdom of water and the water element are its fluidity (ability to flow with ease), ability to continue its existence and to BE in multiple forms/phases, to reflect clearly what is as is, to keep the memory of the Earth and the Universe, to cleanse and its soft power. If we calmly and carefully observe water, she can teach us these qualities.
How does water keep in movement? By not resisting and continuing to find its way. When water meets a rock, water does not stop and complain “why this rock, why me, what to do now..” It does not worry either. It flows on top of the rock and around it. If it can’t continue above ground, it enters underground and keeps on flowing. And with its soft power, transforms the rocks with whom it comes into contact. One day that rock becomes a smooth pebble in our palm.
What else is there to water: there is the storm on the water and its clarity.. There might be a fierce storm on the surface of the water (another example of the power of water in combination with air), but/and at the same time the waters deep down are calm and silent. Just as we have the calm and still Essence underneath all the intense emotions that storm through us. Dear Thich Nhat Hanh (Dear Thay) calls this unchanging still place “the island within.” He reminds us that we can connect to and take refuge in this island whenever we want to and can come back from the past or future to the present moment and back to balance. Why do we hurry and worry then, why do storms overtake us? Cause we are not mindful of the truth that the universe, life, our life and all emotions and thoughts are in constant movement. Through grasping and holding on to thoughts, emotions, our views on life, our life and views of ourselves and more, we slow down, freze their movement and prolong the storm.
Harvard University neuroscientist Dr. Jill Bolte says that the chemical and physiological lifetime of an emotion in the body is 90 seconds and anything beyond this becomes choice. Meaning, any emotion will last up to 90 seconds (chemically and physiologically) and we could breath through it, count the seconds and then the mind and body could continue its movement. Yet how come we stay in the same emotion (emotional mood), especially in intense negative emotions, not for 90 seconds but for hrs and sometimes for days? Because the emotion arises simultaneously with a thought, and with that thought or a second one we feed that emotion and possibly add other intense emotions to it. For example say we became angry at something or someone, and with the emotion came immediately the thought “but it is always me who gets the short end of the stick” and so came more anger, maybe some sadness and self-pity. Then came another thought and a feeling and the whole thing became a bundle.
What is the alternative? Being conscious of the emotion felt, recognizing and accepting it (there is anger/sadness/fear right now in my body), as well as recognizing the thoughts and bodily reactions that came with this emotion and either allowing its expression in a wholesome way (possibly not while under its full spell but in a calmer time), or observing this emotion-thought-body pattern really well and working on its transformation over time. These can allow the intense feelings to flow more easily through the body and the mind, allow us to come back to balance quicker, and allow the movement to continue.. This way the emotions will not be locked in the body either.
And what does still/calm water teach us? To see what is as is. Still waters reflect the skies and underwater as they are, without judgement, without commentary. Sees/comprehends what IS clearly and reflects/expresses it clearly. Isn’t it fascinating dear friends?
And so, let us please approach and contact water with love and respect. Observe water in all its phases, in different times, different seasons, in different landscapes. In love and respect we can ask water and its guides to support us in the qualities we need to nourish in ourselves.
Now and always, may we flow like water, may we BE water.
If you would like to join the upcoming MBSR Program at VHS-Mitte, Berlin, that starts on February 9 and runs on Thursday mornings 9:00-12:00, please sign up from the link below.
If the link does not open properly, please search for Ayse Dayi at the VHS Course Search and you will find the course entitled “A Training in Mindfulness Meditation: MBSR in English.”
With your questions, please contact