“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor” is a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt
I love this metaphor as it teaches me that deep within us all is our internal compass and that we intuitively know what to do and when to do it.

It teaches us that when all is calm and we are sailing along through life, to enjoy these moments and to know that when the waves begin to rise we our blessed with the knowledge that we can navigate the storms.

When the seas are calm and you are steaming right ahead, this can represent when everything in your life is going great. You are getting good grades, you are getting good hours at work, you are spending time with family and friends, and life just seems grand. There isn’t much skill needed for when things are going great.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the scenario. You are out at sea and there is a storm coming, the wind is blowing, making huge waves. The water is splashing over the boat making it hard to see or move around on the boat. The sky is getting darker, making it hard to see the obstacles ahead. Here comes the rain! Now it’s even harder to see or sense the right direction.

You have lost your bearings and are being tossed about by the waves. If you are a new sailor, you will be forced to learn the skills that are needed to try to overcome the situation, and if you are a seasoned sailor then the skills and experience from past storms will kick in. We can look at this as a point in our lives where it is not going so well.

Something is happening in our lives that is testing our skills and making us work harder.
This is when we discover the need to, practice, practice, practice. Mindfulness practice awakens us to our wisdom and insight, that tells us deep down that all will be well and that this too shall pass.

Remember: "An entire sea of water can’t sink a ship unless it gets inside the ship." Similarly, the negativity of the world can’t put you down unless you let it get inside you. (Goi Nasu )

In other words, as we say in Belfast, “Don’t take the bait”.

I know that when I’m hungry, angry, lonely, or tired that I am prone to taking the bait and allow my boat to be rocked.

Boats have to take time in the harbour for repairs and to take on food and fresh water. We too need to dock in our inner harbour, to recharge, refresh and be renewed. We need to drop our anchor and be still — for me this is were my mindfulness practice is my anchor.

Here is a wonderful practice that I was taught, on how to be with the ebb and flow of the breath. So let’s pause for a moment and notice what’s happening now, notice where your attention is right now, and gently with kindness give yourself permission to settle into your body.

Notice contact with the floor, notice contact with your seat allow your shoulder to relax.
Now bring your attention to your breath, following the in breath as you breathe in and letting go of the out breath as you breathe out. Like a wave rolling onto the shore and returning to the ocean, sense the ebb and flow of your breath. Allow your attention to rest on your breath, like a boat on a calm sea, and when your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.

Give yourself five minutes to renew and refresh yourself and take as many five minute breathers in your busy day as you need to reset your sails.

Most of all remember: Steady as she goes and don’t take the bait.
I’ll leave you with the wisdom of the great poet Rumi:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.