Thursday, April 29, 2010

Boats in the Storm

“Calmness is the cradle of power.” ~ Josiah Gilbert Holland

Since I was very young, my mother taught me to associate different mental states with visual symbols to understand their essence more closely.

Water, for one, is connected to emotions simply because of its fluidity and duality – a little gentle water is nurturing, empowering and cooling toward other overwhelming states such as anger and jealousy, which are hot and unsettling in nature; too much water, or too intense a flow of it, can instead be dangerous and overpowering.

I couldn’t help thinking about the association of emotions with water last night, as I gave my daughter a bath - we had bought new boats at the store in the afternoon, and she was eager to see them float.

I filled the tub with water, put the boats out to sea, and watched them float peacefully for a few moments while Morgan was busy getting Hello Kitty’s pajamas on. After getting Hello Kitty ready for bed, she walked into the bathroom and saw the boats – Hurricane Morgan was coming in at category five. She peeled her clothes off in a New York minute and jumped in the tub causing a mini tidal wave. The water splashed around, the boats filled up, and went down faster than rocks.

My daughter looked at me and pouted, complaining that the boats “didn’t work.” I couldn’t help smiling, though I quickly assessed that her serious face required, at that moment, a factual explanation.

As long as everything was calm, the boats floated beatifically and all was well, but as soon as an external upset came upon, the little vessels quickly took in all the water they could contain and, weighed by their fill, they sank.

If we imagine the tub of water being our life, and the little boats being our mind, we can see how easy it is to fill up with too many emotions and go down with the weight. Whether the emotions we open up to are positive or negative, we must maintain a neutral place within ourselves where the waters remain constantly calm enough to safely dock our boats.

Once we have a safe place to shelter in, emotions can be empowering, as long as one is willing to sit back and filter out sensations that are not beneficial. Emotions allow us to learn about ourselves – they show us our weaknesses and our strengths, and they play an important part in our inner growth.

And to avoid sinking, we can simply move the boats out until the water has settled – no storm is going to last forever.