I can swim and sometimes do, but I don’t really like water. It scares me because it’s amoral. It is a slave to all other forces, helplessly reacting to whatever forces are acting upon it, and rushing to obey them, regardless of the consequences. I know I shouldn’t hold water accountable for being what it was created to be, and especially when it keeps me alive when I drink it every day, but too much water also takes lives, and, well… The most terrifying dream I ever experienced was of me totally alone in an endless sea, terrifyingly disorientated by the view looking the same whichever way I turned, and me with only my head above the water, and then up rose a wave right in front of me, rising to colossal size, making right for me.
I told an alternative health practitioner about my dream once. She looked up at me and said, “In dreams, water represents your emotions.” It wasn’t hard to make the connection that my unconscious was showing me I was feeling completely alone, and mortally afraid of drowning in my own emotions – because of their power and their size.
This is all to show how it was deeply significant to me when I read a piece today by Stephen Palmer that uses water to express the unconscious and the subconscious, and I am enraptured by his idea of a rescue being provided by a boat that has a place to go and a person to steer it…
Tiny Boat on a Fathomless Ocean
Sent Monday, February 6, 2012
You are a tiny boat hurled by waves, swirled by winds on a fathomless ocean. There are monsters in the deep, circling ominously. Spasmodic swells threaten to capsize you. At times you drift drowsily through doldrums. You panic when you lose your bearings in thick fog.
The ocean is your subconscious mind, the boat your conscious mind. According to Harvard professor Gerald Zaltman, ninety-five percent of our thoughts, emotions, and learning occur without our conscious awareness. Most cognitive neuroscientists concur. NeuroFocus founder Dr. A.K. Pradeep estimates it at 99.999 percent.
Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University and author of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions, concludes from years of empirical research that human beings are far more irrational than rational. Furthermore, we are unconscious of our irrationality. David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine and author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, writes:
“…consciousness is the smallest player in the operations of the brain. Our brains run mostly on autopilot, and the conscious mind has little access to the giant and mysterious factory that runs below it.”
Dr. Richard Grant of the University of Texas explains that our relationship with our subconscious mind is the same as that with water: We can periodically and briefly swim underneath the surface and discover a hidden fantasy world shimmering with dazzling colors and sensational creatures. But if we spend too much time below, we’ll either drown or be devoured by the monsters in the deep.
Like most people, you can toss helplessly on the ocean of subconsciousness — enslaved by unexamined and deeply embedded beliefs, a puppet on the strings of unconscious reaction. Or you can harness the power of the ocean to your advantage.
There’s one way to survive on the ocean and sail unwaveringly to destinations of your choosing: Use vision to create a fixed, immovable point that acts as your North Star. Then use the rudder and sails of conscious choice to navigate to your fixed point, no matter how colossal the waves and furious the winds.
Take refreshing dips in the ocean through playful imagination. Fish for fresh ideas through introspective meditation. Be fiercely vigilant about the thoughts you entertain in your conscious mind and the habits you create. Indulging in unworthy and negative thoughts and addictive behaviors are like flinging blood in the water — the sharks will streak to your boat and tear you to pieces.
Life Manifestos are sweet water and fresh food to thirsty and hungry sailors. A cool breeze on a stiflingly hot day on the ocean. They give your conscious mind the nourishment you need to stay powerful to man the rudder and adjust the sails. They give you the strength you need to fight the swarming monsters of temptation, depression, and negative-self-talk. They give you the refreshment you need to stay energized through the doldrums. They gleam through night clouds to keep you ever focused on your North Star.
You are a tiny boat on a wild ocean. But you have the rudders and sails of conscious choice. Are you using them?
This idea of Stephen Palmer’s to navigate your way out of drowning would explain why I have become so goal-oriented, and even if I don’t achieve most of my goals, I still have to have them. And though it’s bothered me for years why I keep planning and setting goals that I don’t follow or attain, because it’s irrational of me to continue with that habit – in the light of the water analogy for the mind, that behaviour, though irrational, still serves its purpose.
I’m liking the idea of irrationality more and more 🙂
However, I could set more rational goals. On Sunday we had a lesson by our Relief Society President that focussed on the difference between the tortoise and the hare, and how being the tortoise is better. This is a lesson I am still struggling, and hoping, to learn, so it spoke directly to me. Then she had someone read a quotation from President Gordon B. Hinckley, and I loved it so much I asked for the paper afterwards. He gave this advice to the women of the Church:
“Rise to the great potential within you. I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure. I hope you will not try to set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass.”
Thank you Stephen Palmer, Sister McKenzie, and President Hinckley.