Friday, April 22, 2016

HOW TO CALM THE STORMS IN YOUR LIFE

‘There is a spiritual giant within you, which is always struggling
to burst its way out of the prison you have made for it.’

We all have ‘storms’ in our lives from time to time. Of course, I am using the word ‘storm’ largely but not entirely metaphorically, because many people have to endure storms in the literal sense as well. We hear about that all the time.

A ‘storm’ may take many forms, for example, sickness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, financial woes, emotional upsets (eg fear, anxiety, anger and hatred), and so forth. In fact, any of the problems and stresses of life is a ‘storm’, metaphorically speaking. Now, I am not advocating a simplistic, one-dimensional solution to ‘storms’. I try not to dispense cheap optimism. Life is very tough, and quite unfair at times. Depending on the nature of the storm, professional assistance will often be required to overcome the storm or simply 'ride the waves'.

The Bible is a collection of books on the subject of human psychologyboth ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’, as we used to saycontaining numerous stories depicting the human condition in all its many forms, some of them sordid and others quite lofty. All of the stories, and the events depicted in them, graphically depict various phases of human experience—the so-called human conditionas well as states of consciousness occurring or capable of occurring within our own minds. Those who seek to interpret the Bible otherwise, that is, literally, are, with the greatest respect, gravely mistaken, but that’s for another day.

Now, the story of Jesus calming the storm is well known, even to many not familiar with the Bible. The story is an allegory—never forget that. For starters, we have a storm over a lake. The reference to ‘storm’ is fairly obvious, but what about ‘water’, in this case, the Sea of Galilee where storms were, and still are, known to arise quite suddenly and unexpectedly from time to time? Well, in scared symbology ‘water’ is a symbol for, among other things, mental movement and, in particular, the emotions. In some contexts, water is a symbol of the human soul. Then there’s the ship, which may be seen to be a symbol of the human body. And we have a voyage or journey in the nature of a trial or tribulation. So many ancient and modern stories and myths involve a journey of discovery—self-discovery.


The story goes like this. Jesus had been teaching near the Sea of Galilee. Afterwards, he wanted a respite from the crowds so he decided to take a boat with the disciples to the opposite shore where there were no large towns. The Bible reports that not long after they sailed, Jesus fell asleep and a storm arose. Now, as already mentioned, the Sea of Galilee was known for its sudden raging storms. We read:

‘The waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on the cushion’ (Mk 4:37–38).

The first point to note, other than the fact that Jesus needed to rest just like the rest of us, is that Jesus’ sleep was deep and sound, even through the storm which was ‘already filling’ the boat. Yes, Jesus was asleep on the cushion in the stern of the boat. The disciples were filled with fear and apprehension, but they were smart enough to awaken Jesus. I will have more to say about that matter shortly. So, the disciples woke Jesus and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Peace! Be still!’ We read in the Bible that the wind immediately died down, the storm subsided and, what’s more, there was a great calm. Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’


The word ‘faith’ is much abused. I am not in favour of ‘blind faith’ or some sort of ‘leap of faith’ into the unknown. In a practical sense, faith, as I see it, means acting with courage, confidence and perseverance despite what may be going on around you or inside of you. Faith refers to a special kind of knowledge (no, not intellectual knowledge) and understanding that one can ‘ride the waves’, no matter what life dishes out. No wonder Jesus reportedly said, ‘You will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (Jn 8:32, emphasis added). Faith is not synonymous with mere religious belief. I have seen many people of great faith, in the sense in which I am now using the word, who have no religious faith at all. True faith is knowing the truth about any given situation, and understanding that there is always a solution to any problem that may beset us. Faith is not wishful thinking. It sees the real and the ugly but knows that the power to overcome or rise above whatever may be the problem or issue is always available.

Now, within each one of us is something that the Quakers refer to us ‘peace at the centre’. Quakers cultivate such peace. We all should, whether or not we are Quakers. The ‘peace at the centre’ is calm and tranquility, even in the face of the worst storm imaginable. When a storm calms, say the words, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Saying those words will not make the storm away, but it will help you to get in the right frame of mind to respond appropriately to the storm, whatever it may be. Unless we are still, our response to the storm will be all wrong.

Know this—there is, within each of us, a ‘sleeping giant’. When we awaken that sleeping giant, we find the power to respond appropriately to any storm. This giant of which I speak is an inner potentiality. It is a power and a presence, the very presence of life’s self-expression in and as you, the person that you are. Here’s something else—this presence and power manifests itself as peace and calmness, even in the midst of trouble and turmoil, that is, in the storms of life.


You may not know this, but every character in the Bible—even the person of Jesus—is you, yes, you at some stage or other of your life and psycho-spiritual development. That’s right. Every character in the Bible, whether a real, historical person or not, represents a condition of consciousness and a quality—good or bad—of character or personality. And that goes for the person of Jesus as well, for he is the representative human being par excellence. He is every man or woman on the path of life—well, every man or woman who knows how to master the storms of life. The ‘Christ’ is symbolic of ‘peace at the centre’, the peace that passes all understanding, and the power that makes all things new. The ‘Christ’ is not a person but a principle, a state of attainment, and a presence. The ‘Christ’ is the perfect idea of what a man or woman can be and in truth really is. As such, it abides within each one of us as our potential perfection as well as inner peace and power. The New Testament speaks of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Col 1:27). Esoteric Christians refer to this inner presence and power as the ‘Christ within’, for it is not to be found afar off. Now, when we combine ‘Jesus’ with the ‘Christ’, we have a fully functioning man or woman under full sway of their inner potentiality and vital powers—the perfect human being in actual expression. No, I am not talking about accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and that sort of thing. That is a gross carnalization and literalization of what is otherwise a very important myth as well as being a misrepresentation and distortion of the true metaphysical position. We are all Christs in the making.

To find ‘peace at the centre’ is more than just finding inner peace. One finds power as well—yes, the power to triumph over any adversity. I will use another analogy. I live not far from the beach on Sydney's wonderful Northern Beaches and I love bodysurfing. I try to bodysurf as often as I can, even though I'm not that great at it. Now, some waves are fairly small such that you can just go over the top of them, as if you were a bobbing cork. Others are bigger, and you must go through the middle of them in order to avoid being dumped. Still others are even bigger, with some being so big that all you can safely do is to go right under the water and head straight for the sandy bottom. There you find stillness and calmness. You can see and sometimes hear all the turbulence above you, but you are safe at or near the bottom, and you simply wait until things calm down before you surface again. Then there are other waves which are just perfect for bodysurfing. Life is very much like that. One wave after another. The important thing is to deal with one wave at a time. Of course, the waves sometimes come in very quick succession. Life is also like that.

Bodysurfing at Warriewood, on Sydney's Northern Beaches.

Yes, there is peace and harmony at the centre—and power, too. To use one final analogy, it's the power to climb over any mountain, or go around that mountain if need be, or simply go straight through the middle of the mountain. In order to know that peace, and find and use that inner power, you must awaken the ‘sleeping giant’ within you. Then you will have the power to overcome any adversity. Not only that, but the storms of life will not overwhelm you anymore.

‘Peace! Be still!’


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