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Controlling the wayward mind is like treading water at sea.

I remember one time, back when I was living in the West Indies, a friend and I went out lobster hunting. This was when I included fish in my diet, obviously. About 50 yards from shore, I set my gear on a rock and wearing fins and goggles and armed with spear-gun I delved underwater where 15 feet below I searched beneath rocks and chasms for the crustaceans. I think we managed to catch a few overgrown cockroaches that day. But that's not the point.

The point is, after one such plunge, a resurfaced to see a big wave swallow the rock on which my gear had rested and sweep it out to sea. I didn't think much about swimming after it, but would you believe that it retreated faster than I could retrieve it. In a few blinks of the eye, my gear was gone, vanished. And I will tell you I had a difficult time swimming back to shore, even in fins. Must have  been a riptide. Of course being slightly superstitious I imagined it was the ocean's way of getting back at me for taking some of its own by taking something of mine, and maybe I was lucky I didn't get swept out to sea permanently. It happens...

And I got to thinking about the parallels of the ocean and the mind. Are not the thoughts we have similar to the ocean currents, coming out of nowhere and relentlessly tugging you every which way. And isn't remaining still and steady, in a realm of no mind, without thoughts, akin to struggling to tread water amidst such a relentless current. What great effort is involved to remain stationary at sea, similar to the effort involved to achieve stillness of mind. But well worth it! That space of no mind is the closest we come to pure consciousness. And this pure consciousness is our lifeline to the Absolute Awareness from which we spring to use another ocean analogy, like waves from the deep, only to recede back into the sea of Awareness once our Earthly role has been played.

Sit or lie still and try treading consciousness today. Begin by watching the thoughts, and after a few moments, once the thoughts calm (you can use deep breathing to aid the process) use concentration to remain in that space of no thought. It takes quite a lot of effort to keep still, since the mind's nature is outgoing. Like treading water in a riptide. Note the varying kinds of thoughts. Thoughts that take the form of guilt/regret about the past and anxiety of the future lead to an emotional response in your body. You can create a whole world of concepts, which even though they are totally fictional, assume the nature of reality and impact your life (often adversely). Which is why they say that each of us is his own worst enemy.

Guilt about the past and anxiety about the future should be avoided. Not with any effort on your part. Just don't grasp on to regrets and anxieties. See them for what they are. Thoughts that spring from nothing and return to nothing. Other thoughts take the form of creative insights and inspiration. These are fun. Perhaps you will remember them when you leave your meditation. If it's meant to be it will happen. But see even these thoughts for what they are. The mind's attempt to distract itself from no-thought. The mind abhors a vacuum, but it is only in a vacuum that you can give your true Awareness room to be. Each time you have a thought, of whatever form, gently bring your Awareness back to itself. Do it persistently and you will find that the root thought, the thought that gives rise to all others, is of the nature "I am." It is this identity, this separateness that allows one to conceive of others as different. The mystics call it the ego, or identification with the body. Stay on this "I am" thought, and try going beyond it, so that all you are left with is pure awareness. "I." This Awareness, being the source of all that is, is itself all that is, which is what you are, deserving the term God. Be intent enough and you won't get swept out to sea. Because you may never return. Or if you do, never be the same.

Of course it is not enough to spout words of wisdom (if they can be called that). As Shankaracharya writes in his Crest-Jewel of Wisdom, "Teaching must be woven into life and character if it is to bear fruit; it is not enough to contemplate Truth in the abstract." We must practice it. Constantly. Consciously be it. Then your life is your message.

So where do you go from here, after clearing away stray thoughts and reaching the equipoise of no mind? Simply, you abide in awareness. Allow your every thought, word and deed to come from your awareness of infinite bliss that you are. That's called practicing what is preached.

Happy treading!


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