Imagine sitting by the shore of a pond. There is a gentle breeze, just enough to tickle you, on a balmy, warm day. You can hear birds singing, talking to one another, with spacious periods of serene silence in-between. At the near edge of the pond is a grouping of lily pads, with several pale pink blossoms opening themselves to the sun. Other than the occasional duck that paddles by, the water is smooth as glass, undisturbed and reflective.
Suddenly, a sizable stone is tossed in the air, and lands soundly in the middle of the pond with a ker-plunk! A duck, seemingly out of nowhere, takes flight, fleeing to the far side of the pond, while the birds pause, listening. Ripples extend out from the point of impact, yet the stone itself has disappeared, settling to the muddy bottom.
Slowly, steadily, the ripples soften in their intensity, echoing out to the pond’s edge, and gradually the water returns to its smooth, undisturbed state. The birds resume their song, and the cattails gently bend in the soft breeze.
For me, this is a place of tranquility – quiet and peaceful, harmonious and natural. We all love to spend time in tranquil places in nature. But what we seek most is the tranquility of the mind and spirit. This is a mind that is free from agitation, undisturbed. It is an inner state of steadiness.
But like the pond, disturbances are part of life. We inevitably experience situations that create turmoil from time to time. More commonly, we experience mental turmoil – rumination, obsessive thoughts, worries, frustration. Just like the stone thrown into the water, we are all too familiar with pebbles, stones, and large rocks pummeling our internal pool.
The key to maintaining inner tranquility is found in the metaphor of the pond. The pond doesn’t resist the stone; it receives it, and feels the ripples from its impact. But the difference between us and the pond is that the pond lets it go. It allows the ripples to move out from the center of contact, and gently subside into stillness again. The stone becomes absorbed into the muddy bottom, settling into the stillness in the background of awareness.
When disturbing thoughts arise, become aware of them. Witness them, as if you were watching the ripple effects of the stone landing in the water. But don’t get caught up in the thought, clinging to it and building a story around it. Instead, let the thought go. Allow it to fade into the background, and feel what is beneath the thoughts: the inner silence.
The more attention given to the inner silence, that place of stillness that beneath the thinking mind, the more tranquility emerges within you. You’ll feel undisturbed, even when ripples of thought flow through. You’ll be grounded in the place beyond the surface-level agitations of the mind.
It takes practice, but tranquility can be yours as you learn to identify with the inner stillness, rather than the surface-level agitations. Be like the pond; as the thoughts subside, choose to return to the smooth, reflective inner space of tranquility, over and over again.