What is gained when rushing water becomes still?
The river widens, and its current slows. The rushing water becomes calmer, then grows still. Mud settles, and the water clears. Its surface holds the sky’s reflection.
What is gained in this quieting of the water’s motion? There is silence. In the stillness, there is peace, and relief. The rushing of our emotions knocks us off balance. It wants to carry us away. Still water restores our equanimity.
Still water reflects the world without distortion. It lets us see and accept things for what or who they are. Our perspective is no longer caught in our reaction to what is in front of us. We stop our fruitless struggle to turn the world into what we want or need it to be.
We gain energy because we no longer spend it resisting. We gain power to speak and act with skill. We gain trust, by being present. We gain insight, and understanding. Zen master Thich Nhat Hahn writes this in Being Peace:
For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.
It is not easy to calm rushing water. Time helps, if we practice wisely. We practice noticing the disturbances in us, and bring awareness to our views, and emotions. We practice looking deeply at what in us is causing the reaction. We practice accepting what we find, and let it wash away.
Thich Nhat Hahn was a Buddhist monk, peace activist and founder of The Plum Village, a global community of practice centers and monasteries. He was also a prolific author. I have read a few of his books. They offer wonderfully simple and practical advice for living a richer, more meaningful, and more peaceful life. Start with At Home in the World or You are Here.
Here is a daily practice that will help you calm your rushing emotions. Every morning set an intention to notice when something or someone causes an emotional reaction in you during the day. The news and social media are good places to look. So is driving in traffic, dealing with co-workers and talking with your partner, parents, or children :) When you do become aware of a reaction, just notice it, without judgment.
At the end of each day, take a few minutes to check in with yourself. Notice what you noticed, and what caused the reaction in you. Notice also what you did not notice. Try to do all of this without judgment. If you do find yourself judging others, or judging yourself, just notice that too. Be consistent in your practice. With time, and patience, you will begin to notice a difference.