The Lake Effect
Note: I’m posting a few days early since I’ll be traveling this week, and can’t be sure when I’ll have access to the Internet.
In my last blog about titration I shared a statement by Hugh Milne: “Its amazing how much how little will do.”
It’s also amazing how much we don’t see or hear sometimes. Little things. Big things. Sometimes pivotal things.
A few years ago I took a couple of mindfulness classes at the University of Virginia—Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) to be exact. I really enjoyed the classes, learned a tremendous amount, and began practicing various mindfulness techniques.
They provided us with recordings of several meditations which I continued to use after the classes were over. The director of the mindfulness program, a wonderful guy, had made several of those recordings. Which would have been fine, except that he had also been my boss on a research project a number of years ago. I really enjoyed working with him, and taking the class from him, but I have to say it was a bit odd to have the voice of my old boss escorting me into a slightly altered state of mind.
So I went looking for some new recordings. One I particularly liked was called “the lake meditation.” I used this recording, and others, for a long time, eventually moving away from them so I could go more at my own pace. That worked very well but for some reason I drifted away from the lake meditation.
But I found myself thinking about it a few weeks ago, really wanting to do it again So I unearthed the file, and it was as lovely as I remembered. After settling in you are coached to let "an image form in your mind’s eye of a lake, a body of water, large or small, held in a receptive basin by the earth itself." It goes on to describe all the loveliness and variability a lake can offer.
Here comes the part I didn't hear: what I did get the first few times recently, (and always before when I did the meditation), was that I should imagine holding the lake within my body. That is a wonderful image, and could be very helpful. Worth spending time with. But what the person on the recording said next was, "allow yourself, when you feel ready, to bring it inside yourself completely, so that your being merges with the lake, becomes one with it....as the lake’s waters are held by the receptive and accepting basin of the earth herself."
Oh my gosh—how did I miss that? All of me becoming the lake, not just having a lake in my belly. What an amazing idea. Held by the earth, God, my deeper self. Resting as a baby, fully sheltered in its mothers’ arms. (That's a great image for God, by the way, if you are oriented that way. Check out Isaiah 49:15.)
All those weeks and months of listening to that recording and I hadn’t heard those words. I was delighted with this new understanding, and also kind of stunned. How could I have missed it?
I got my answer almost immediately as I tried following the soft-spoken suggestions. As I began resting as a lake, I realized that as much as I found it to be lovely, part of me was also a little afraid. Some part of me was hesitant to rest—or trust—that deeply. To feel fully at home, fully received here on the planet, as a lake is fully received by the earth. It feels wonderful if you can do it but...
It’s that fear of feeling good that I posted about last week. There are several good reasons for that in my history which I don’t need to go into right now. I was able to allow myself to rest into that lake place briefly, and then move back out a little, then touch into that safety again, then shimmy back out. Honoring my desire to rest as a lake, and my need to take it slowly, drop by drop. That’s the concept of titration that I talked about in my previous post and in my FAQs. It works much better than trying to force yourself to be "mature" or "spiritual" or whatever word you may use to try to pound yourself into doing or being what you think you ought to be or do.
I do a lake meditation once or twice a week now—lying down, by the way, as you can best be a lake when your body is resting like one. And in between? I enjoy laking. That's my newest word: the verb form of “lake.” When I "lake" I know, for a second or two, that the earth holds me safe, I remember that I can totally relax, and (to paraphrase the meditation) seek my own level, asking to be held. Allowing myself to be here fully, just as I am.
How could I have missed it? I wasn't ready for it yet.
Hoping you have a restful and refreshing Thanksgiving.
Next time I’ll write about what I've been learning from a statue.