A few weeks ago, my family and I watched an amazing movie called 13 Lives. You may remember this story from the news a few years ago, when a group of young boys and their soccer coach were stuck for nearly three weeks in a system of caves in Thailand. Their trip to the Tham Lung cave was meant to be a happy adventure for the boys as the first part of a birthday celebration. It was seemingly safe to explore this cave as the local Monsoon season was weeks away, but as weather is unpredictable, the Monsoon rains came early and began flooding the cave. When the boys didn’t return home that evening, the governor was alerted and a massive search began.
What struck me about this incredible story was their courage, as well as the courage of those who successfully came to their rescue. Beyond this astounding courage was discovering how they managed to survive for 10 days, huddled together in cold, damp darkness, before anyone could even reach them. You see, even the Thai Navy Seals called in to help rescue this soccer team couldn’t reach the boys diving through the narrow crevices and pathways of this cave. The governor had to call in a British cave diving team to help – and it took them several hours to reach the boys. When they finally did, they were amazed that everyone was alive! They praised the boys for their bravery, and asked how they were able to survive their time in the cave so far. Their answer…MEDITATION. Their coach was an expert in meditation and taught them how to tune into the power of their breath, and remain calm together to conserve their much needed energy. WOW!!!
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines meditation as the act or process of spending time in quiet thought. It is the process of turning your attention inward, and discovering your essential nature, which is peaceful and happy. And it is the limb of yoga hat comes before attaining a permanent connection to the Divine within, and to the Divine above. From early childhood ,we are taught to examine the outside world – that is the process of learning. And as adults, we continue to study, analyze and react to the external rather than to the internal wisdom of our mind. All this causes unnecessary stress and strain in our lives.
Of course we are going to have challenges, changes, hurts and losses that affect us deeply. But if we cultivate a regular practice of sitting still and meditating, we can enjoy the benefits of letting some of that go. It’s like a vacation for your mind. Your body begins to relax, and then you begin to find some space between your thoughts. You begin to notice them, and discern what’s important from what’s not. This leads to making better decisions, and even to processing and reacting to present moments much differently.
It took over a week to create a successful plan to rescue these boys after they were initially found – with the divers going back and forth through the cave to bring much needed food and supplies to the team. This brings me to the power of courage – which is defined as mental or moral strength; to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. These boys and their coach, as well as the divers, had mounds of courage.
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at its testing point.” ~ C.S. LEWIS
The third moral of this story was the power of community – in yoga we call this Sangha. You see, over 5,000 volunteers from 17 countries came in to assist in this rescue. They camped out in weeks of Monsoon rains, supported the boys’ families with food and prayer, and helped divert water out of the caves. If we all worked together as one, the world would truly be at peace.
Before I end with a quote, let’s talk about the beauty of meditation. Many people come to meditation through yoga classes, and the marriage of movements to their breath in class inspires them to cultivate a regular meditation practice later on. With steady meditation you gain more freedom from anxiety, negative self-talk, and judgment. You react less to life’s challenges, and increase patience and happiness. WIth lifelong practice, you might even attain true enlightenment by discerning that everything external is impermanent, and connect to the essential bliss in the depths of your soul.
“Buddha was asked, “What have you gained from meditation?” He replied, “Nothing! But let me tell you what I have lost; Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of Old Age & Death.” ~ Unknown