Following their practice, the Wild Boars soccer team ventured into the Tham Luang Cave complex. It was June 23rd, 2018, and the 12 boys and their coach sought to explore the cave. After entering the area, however, flooding sealed off the entrance. They were stuck, with no way out.
Ten days later, two British divers surfaced inside the cave, capturing an interesting video which became a sensation: The boys were sitting silently in the darkness, calmly meditating. It was later reported that their coach, a former Buddhist monk, had been teaching them the fundamentals of meditation. It would be two-and-a-half weeks before they would all be rescued.
Meditation can be an effective technique for helping us to stay calm amidst difficult external circumstances. This is exemplified by the boys who, despite being in a situation where their very survival seemed compromised, were observed calm and centered.
Like a buoy in the ocean, meditation can aid us in weathering the conditions that life throws at us. The buoy rises and falls with the waves, not resisting the unstoppable conditions. Because the buoy flows with the ocean instead of trying to overcome it, it does not capitulate.
Fortunately, to practice meditation, we don’t have to be in a silent rainforest sitting under a Bodhi tree. Instead, meditation can be practiced anywhere and under any circumstances. This is exemplified by the Thai students, who practiced while in a cave where their very life seemed compromised.
In my life, I faced a similarly distressing incident where meditation allowed me to stay calm and centered, and to cope with the stresses that arose.
I had just backpacked by myself through the border of Burma and had found someone who was willing to drive me to the city where I had a reservation. Characteristic of myself, I hadn’t researched how long the trip would take or how the driving conditions would be. I soon found out that the drive would take around 10 hours.
Thinking I had the car to myself, I was content. We continued to wait, however, until every seat was filled, and every space in the van was cluttered by boxes, suitcases, and other objects. My claustrophobic self began to feel worried about the situation. Soon enough, the driver gestured that we would be leaving. Recognizing I had no choice, I took my seat.
As we took off, the van was at maximum capacity. It could barely accelerate, and it seemed that the van had sunk one foot from the weight. Throughout the trip, we stopped twice to use the restroom and eat. The food didn’t seem too delicious, however, and I subsisted on chips and cheese bread.
Besides the lack of bathroom breaks or food, we were stopped every hour by security guards to whom we have money. It dawned on me sometime during the trip that I was alone in a country which had been a dictatorship two years prior; where genocide was still occurring in certain areas; and that I was in the middle of nowhere, as the only tourist, heading to god-knows-where. In the end, the trip ended up taking about 17 hours.
Amidst the hunger, fear, anxiety, and stress, I continued to return to my meditation practice. I closed my eyes, focused on my breathing, and allowed the sensations, emotions, and thoughts to ebb and flow through me. I accepted the situation as it is, not judging it for what it was.
As I meditated, the difficult emotions and sensations were still present. But I was not overcome by them. Since that adventure, I have used meditation to calm and center myself during numerous difficult situations – from my intense journey into the wilderness of India, to my suffocating anxiety before giving a public speech.
Through all of this, I have learned that meditation is not only something you do while on the mat or something you return to during difficult situations. Instead, it is something – a mindset, wisdom, or practice – which you strive to bring with you during every moment of your life.
Whether in line at Starbucks, during a drive to work, or before going to bed, we remind ourselves to take a step back, breathe, and allow life to flow through us unfettered.
Photo credits: Matty Adame – unsplash.com