Be As the Water
Imagine your thoughts as a flowing river, stretching from the peaks of the mountains to the vast ocean of possibility. Just as water seeks the path of least resistance, when we are functioning at our best our thoughts flow naturally, uninterrupted and unguided by our ego. As soon as we encounter resistance, however, our natural response tends to be to offer mental resistance right back. We worry, we stress, we ruminate endlessly over our possible choices and outcomes; essentially, we build ourselves a dam. Our natural flow state then becomes interrupted and we stagnate in our own anxieties and self-doubt.
Take a lesson from the river here. When encountering an obstacle it does not seek to fight back, to overpower it or to problem solve its way out. Rather, by offering no resistance to the obstacle the water effortlessly and easily diverts its path and continues to flow. Not only does the water avoid resistance – it actually embraces the obstacle, allowing itself to flow over, around, and through it; incorporating the obstacle into its natural path and eroding it over time. When we encounter an obstacle in our life and put up “mental resistance,” we generate a great deal of stress and anxiety. Alternatively, when we embrace our obstacles as a part of our natural path through life, when we dive into our pain, grief, fear and anxiety without judgment and resistance, we cease to allow our obstacles to have power over us.
Come Back to Your Breath
So often we complicate our lives unnecessarily. A conversation with a friend is analyzed from countless angles rather than taking them at their word. A text message from a romantic interest is read over and over until it takes on entirely unintended meanings. A chance to communicate our hopes, pains, and struggles to our loved ones is missed in favor of pride or fear of being vulnerable. Our own thoughts betray us and create complex stories and explanations with no basis in reality.
If you are willing to let go of mental resistance and judgment, however, you may find that these complications become just another part of your path.
Struggling with a co-worker, friend, or partner? Let them know how you’re feeling. State your needs, and do so with compassion.
Want more happiness in your life? Invite it. Call the people you want to spend time with. Engage in the activities you enjoy. Smile.
Not sure what someone else is thinking or feeling? Ask.
Stuck in your thoughts? Come back to your breath. It is the simplest thing you have in this life.
Be as the water. Keep it simple.
Metaphors are a reflection of reality. When it comes to metaphors, simple tends to be best. A few years ago, we created a hands-on lesson for students using a metaphor of a boat and anchor connected to mindfulness. We wanted to reintroduce the lesson here on our blog as a resource for parents and teachers to do with their students through a downloadable PDF.
This lesson introduces a simple metaphor that you and your students can use to integrate the concepts of Lizard and Wizard Brain, emotions, mindfulness, and coping skills. It also provides a fun opportunity for students to connect with SEL concepts through art.
The basis of this metaphor is this: Your brain can be thought of as a boat sailing on the ocean. The ocean represents your emotions and experiences – sometimes calm, sometimes wavy, and sometimes flat-out stormy. The boat itself represents your lizard-brain – the part of your brain that is reactive and easily tossed around on the currents and waves of your emotions. No good ship would be complete without a captain, however, also known as your wizard- brain. It takes a wise captain to steer a ship through a storm and to know when it is time to drop the anchor. The anchor represents mindfulness – the simple act of grounding oneself in the present moment even in the face of stormy waters. Each of the three prongs of the anchor represents the three anchors of mindfulness – breath, body, and sound. The metaphor of the anchor can be extended to include any coping skill that helps to anchor you in the present moment.
So, while your students will not be learning any new concepts in this lesson, it is a great way to bring it all together in one simple drawing. Get creative, have fun, and dive into the metaphor with your students!