07/04/2015 11:56 BST | Updated 03/06/2015 06:59 BST

Finding Peace during Difficult Times


photo by Sarah Burvenich

When you find yourself in turbulent waters, tie a rope to your center and loosen your hold.

Your tight grip only fastens to fear and chokes your flexibility

Trust the buoyancy of your heart. It knows these waves and the elasticity it takesto float through the storm.

In your moment of distress, don't frantically stiffen but invoke the deep malleability that only the holy wisdom of the heart may beckon.

There is no other rescue in this moment. Than this. Until the storm subsides.

A wonderful sports coach once told me, "In order to respond efficiently, a muscle must be relaxed if it is to contract. When tense, we cannot tense further and so are impotent to respond."

I have begun to see that this same wisdom can be applied to the psyche - to a mind amidst the turbulent waters of distress. In many spiritual traditions, they teach us that life moves in cycles. We hear the phrase "this too shall pass" again and again, and the question arises of how to move into a more felt experience of that ancient wisdom.

How do we find the calm within during the tumultuous cycles of our life?

During a recent difficult phase, I began to notice a strong, internal tension within me during my meditation practices. The calm center I have come to find such solace within seemed to be a far distance away from me. I began to wonder what had accumulated between me and inner peace, when a quiet question emerged:

Why am I so tense and holding on so tightly if I am truly seeking solace and comfort?

When we are trying to get comfortable in our physical body, do we tense up? No. Obviously, tension is the opposite of comfort. Last time I checked, relaxation and flexibility (not tension) induce comfort.

I began to see, clearly, that the tension in my mind was making me impotent to respond effectively to the distress in my life.

From a very unconscious corner, fear had, somehow, crept in, and was affecting my ability to soften, to breathe, to open to possibility.

Many spiritual writings posit that fear stands in opposition to love. If I want to move out of this inner tension, then I need to invoke the mysterious wisdom of the heart. Certainly, sitting right smack in the center of my tense mind, and willing myself to relax wasn't going to work for me. I had to get out and go somewhere else.

My teacher once told me, when challenged, "you must flow like water" (Master Choa Kok Sui). Water is malleable; it bends, twists, turns, and flows around obstacles. It is soft, not rigid. These are the qualities found in the heart. Water is often associated with the astral or emotional body. These are tricky seas to invoke, as we can often drown or become overwhelmed in our emotions. The purely emotional heart can sink into desperation and despair.

However, there is another heart, which is often referred to in esoteric teachings as the spiritual heart. This heart knows transcendence. It is buoyant and deeply accepting.

The eyes of the spiritual heart see the necessity of life's vicissitudes to develop inner strength and transformation. It is this heart that unravels the tensions of the mind, and frees us from the entrapments of fear. It is in this heart, that we can find rest and comfort amidst the thunderstorms around us.

Of course, it isn't with one internal movement that all tension and fear and grief melt away. But, perhaps, they begin to soften. Perhaps, we begin to soften. And we float a little closer to the surface. With softness, comes less tension.

And with less tension, like a muscle, we can respond more effectively.

This is a practice, a constant choice, a movement that we make again and again, as the ever strong patterns of our thoughts and mind attempt to survive.

But more than ever, in difficult cycles, we must trust the buoyancy of the heart, and choose that to be our life-saver amidst the threatening waves. When I chose this practice, somehow, I reconnected to the inner peace and contentment of the ever-calm waters of our true, spiritual nature, and found my way again. A soft smile appeared and lightness returned even though the external difficulties remained.

"The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don't wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy." -Thich Nhat Hanh

originally published on The House of Yoga