By Leo Babauta
Have you ever been on vacation, perhaps floating in warm ocean water, or lounging on a deck or hammock, completely relaxed?
There’s a way in which you open your mind to everything around you, not thinking about it but just fully in tune with your surroundings, with everything in this moment.
There is no separation between you and the water, or the humid air and tropical plants.
In this moment, you are at one with everything, in relaxed, open awareness.
Now contrast that with how we normally are:
- Constantly distracted, always looking for something to keep our minds busy, keep ourselves from resting in the moment.
- Overwhelmed, busy, stressed, or irritated with someone else or the current situation.
- Mind busy, not in touch with our surroundings.
Does any of that sound familiar? I would argue that most of us are in a mode like this — some version of it — most of the time. Not every second of the day, but many of our hours are distracted, busy, stressed, overwhelmed, irritated, worried, unhappy with ourselves or someone else.
What if we could turn on that vacation mind, immersed in the warm ocean … in our everyday life?
What would that be like? How can we get into that state? How can we get into the “warm ocean” state of mind and still get things done?
Let’s find out!
Warm Ocean Mind: What It Is
Imagine for a moment that you’re floating in a warm ocean, not too deep, nothing scary, just peaceful, gently swaying ocean. The ocean is the temperature of bath water, and as you float there, you feel no separation between yourself and this water.
You feel at one not only with the water, but everything: the sand and rocks beneath you, the vast sky above you, every creature and bit of seaweed in this water with you. You’re all in this together! You aren’t separate.
You are at home.
This is the state we were in before birth, floating in the womb, no worries at all, completely at peace and at one with our mothers. With the universe. This is what our natural state feels like, and we’ve been trying to get back to that wholeness ever since.
Warm Ocean Mind, then, is a state of wholeness. It’s relaxed, peaceful, open minded, an open awareness of everything around you, a state of oneness with no separation. One field of being, as mystical as that might sound.
Getting to Warm Ocean Mind
This returning home, to a state of wholeness, is possible in everyday life, not just floating in the beautiful ocean.
You can get there by opening the mind, allowing yourself to expand your awareness from a narrow focus to a more open one. And then relax in that state of awareness.
Try it now:
- Sit still for a minute, and just let your mind become aware of the sensations around you, resting on whichever sensations you notice.
- Expand your awareness to more of your surroundings, taking in every sight sensation, then sound sensation, then touch sensation, that you can notice. Keep taking in more, trying to soak in everything at once (without stressing about whether you’re getting it).
- Let your awareness relax in this state of openness.
- Let your sense of being separate from it all drop away, thinking of yourself and everything around you as one big field of sensation and energy, one field of awareness.
- Relax in this state of wholeness, and send love to all of it, in full appreciation of the miracle of this moment.
You can practice this at any time, and each time you practice it will be different. Sometimes you won’t “get it,” but that’s OK, it’s not about achieving anything, it’s just about exploration.
Getting Things Done with Warm Ocean Mind
OK, so getting into this relaxed Warm Ocean Mind is a really nice thing … but we have to function in the world, right? We can’t just be at one with everything and not do the laundry, not get work done, can we?
No, we have to get things done. And I don’t know of anyone who is always in this Warm Ocean Mind, all the time. Most of us are going to get into this state only sometimes.
But it is possible to get things done in this state. There’s a book by the late Zen teacher Darlene Cohen called, The One Who Isn’t Busy, and Cohen writes about this very topic. She writes about “simultaneous inclusion,” where we are both getting something done but also in this vacation mind, at the same time.
How is this possible? It takes practice, but basically, after practicing getting into Warm Ocean Mind, you get into that state of openness … then with this open, relaxed mind, you practice doing a task. One task at a time, being fully present as you do it.
For example, let’s say I want to wash the dishes. Then I might:
- Open my awareness and relax in it.
- Set an intention to stay in this open awareness as I do the dishes.
- Keep the open awareness while also being aware of the movement to pick up a dish. At the same time. It’s an advanced practice, but you can be aware of a particular object or particular action/motion, while still keeping the wider open awareness. It’s like holding an awareness of the light in a room while also being aware of the sounds.
- Keep returning to the restful, open awareness when I get distracted and my mind wanders. Open awareness while doing the task, returning when needed.
You don’t need to practice this kind of simultaneous inclusion to get the benefits of Warm Ocean Mind. You can just do the resting in loving, open awareness from time to time, whenever you remember, and the benefits are incredible. But try holding that awareness as you act, and see if there’s a kind of beauty in that mindful focus for you.
The Mindful Focus Course
A quick reminder to sign up for my new Mindful Focus Course before the registration deadline on April 21, 2018. In this four-week video course, we will look at:
- Understanding why we get distracted, why it’s so difficult to find focus, why we procrastinate, and why we get plagued with indecision
- How to structure your day and environment for greater clarity, focus and meaningful contribution
- How to create a focus ritual and train ourselves to stay with important tasks in mindfulness
- How to deal with our most common obstacles, like interruptions, emails, and the urge to run to distraction
- How to simplify your day and create a more deliberate pace
- How to cut out distractions
Enrollment for this course is $49 and will only be available until April 21.