I am the Ocean


I am the ocean.

I am the ocean.

I am the ocean.

This meditation, which I learned from Tara Brach, is the only one that brings me peace right now. When I wonder how my splayed-open heart is going to make it through our national horror show, I remember that I am the ocean, and while my grief and terror may be mighty waves, they cannot consume me. The ocean that is my true nature can hold them all.

We, the people, are the ocean of our roiling country. The waves are breaking constantly, some seem purposefully to be tsunamis. I pray that our democracy is deep and wide enough to see them dissipate in her vastness.

Zen Buddhist priest Karen Maezen Miller writes in her beautiful book Paradise in Plain Sight, “The nature of life is impermanence. One day it will get your attention.” Life has indeed gotten my attention.

As a young girl in the 70’s being raised by a feminist mother, I grew up singing “Free to Be You and Me”:

There’s a land that I see where the children are free

And I say it ain’t far to this land from where we are…  

I see a land bright and clear, and the time’s comin’ near,

When we’ll live in this land, you and me, hand in hand…

And you and me are free to be you and me.

I know this vision of our country did not yet fully exist for everyone, and many have suffered horrendously in its pursuit. I believed though that we were headed there. At recent protests and at the Women’s March, I felt it still.

There is so much to fathom about our democracy’s potential demise. I grieve the thought of living in a country that does not prize compassion as one of its highest values. My greatest fear is that my child’s young life will end instantly in a nuclear war.

This national, international and earthly calamity hit at a time when I had lost my confidence in an interventionist God that can or will help. I’m embarrassed to have had such an understanding in the first place – surely if such a power existed, there would have been no slavery, no Holocaust, no Hiroshima, no Sandy Hook, no desperate refugee families refused at America’s door.

Then I watched the documentary White Helmets about the Syrian volunteers who dig for survivors and pull the dead bodies of their neighbors, families and fellow citizens out of buildings bombed by their own government. The White Helmets’ incredibly loving service in the midst of unspeakable horror is one of the most stunning and humble examples of Goodness manifest. For me, it is God.

I know that goodness exists everywhere and, I believe, within everyone, however covered up by our crap, or as the Buddhists would say, our ignorance. I am choosing to rest my hope for our country’s salvation on each of us rising to the occasion from our true nature whether we are a judge in Seattle, a Republican Senator who can stomach it no longer, a mother trying to make life feel normal for her child, or thousands of volunteer lawyers showing up at airports to help the stunned, stranded and bereft.

Journalist Sarah Kendzior writes, in this must-read piece (among all of her must-read reporting), “Do not accept brutality and cruelty as normal even if it is sanctioned. Protect the vulnerable and encourage the afraid. If you are brave, stand up for others. If you cannot be brave – and it is often hard to be brave – be kind.”

I do not know if goodness will win this time, but I hope so. Regardless, I will take great heart in the millions of mighty acts of love that have already begun rolling in like waves. I pray that I will remember that I too am the ocean, and that I will be brave and kind. One day in yoga many months ago, I prayed to God, “Please let me feel you.”  The response I heard was, “I am you.” I think perhaps this is what God meant.


2 Responses to “I am the Ocean”

  1. Whitney Says:

    Love, love, love this! So beautiful and so perfect. Thank you!

  2. KFR Says:

    Well written, Eleanor. Well thought-out, and yes, beautiful. KFR, Cape Charles, Va.

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