I’m a fisherman. I love catching and eating fish. I’m an okay swimmer but my body doesn’t have much fat so I have to keep treading water or moving forward if I don’t want to sink. My wife tells me to wear my life preserver. But I’m not very good at remembering to do that. It takes an extra minute of time to locate it and put it on. Then it’s not all that comfortable, especially when it’s hot. So why do it?
I can understand the practicality if you are in a boat that can run over twenty miles per hour. If you hit a submerged log with the motor, you could fly out of the boat. Maybe hit your head on the way out. But even if you don’t get knocked out, you could damage one of your arms or legs that you need to tread water or get to shore. On the other hand, in a kayak or canoe, it’s more about instability than speed.
It’s not that I don’t know the value of my life preserver. The problem is that I have not established the habit of doing it every time I get in the boat. Getting into the habit requires intentional effort. There are all kinds of excuses why I might not put it on. Like – if I get to my fishing spot as fast as possible, the fish will not have left yet. Right. Sometimes I have justified it by saying, well, I’ve never fallen out of the boat yet.
Which is no longer true. I was pulling up to a dock at the end of one fishing trip. I stood up and was leaning over the edge, reaching to tie a rope to the mooring. Before I knew it, I had fallen head over heels into the water. Fortunately, it was only four feet deep. But my head came within six inches of hitting the side of the dock. I didn’t have my life preserver on. On an unlucky day, I could have met my Maker in four foot of water.
Maybe I should think of wearing my life preserver in the same way I think of using a spiritual tool like meditation. I don’t need meditation to keep me breathing or to stay physically alive. The life I’m speaking about is a quality of life that makes you glad you are alive. It’s the kind of life that brings growth and encouragement and joy along the way. It’s a life in which peace and contentment are more important than having the most money or bigger houses than others.
Like a life preserver, the faster you are going, the more important it is to get into the habit of using a spiritual tool like meditation. Every single time you get out of bed and into the world, you need something to keep you afloat on the ocean of life. You need a backup system that helps you stay calm in stressful times. You need a spiritual tool that helps you rise above anger and fear. To remain objective means you can use your head wisely and make good choices.
Making decisions with your emotions in control is like hitting your head on the boat before you hit the water. If the water is choppy and there’s a storm going on around you, you can’t think straight to make the best choice of staying with the overturned boat or heading for the shoreline.
Meditation is just one of many spiritual life preservers. Yoga, Tai Chi, reflection on wisdom teachings (Torah, Bible, Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Tao de Ching, etc.), positive affirmations, pilgrimage, solitude, prayer, or other spiritual disciplines can help open your mind to the oneness of all creation. We are created to live in harmony with one another. We were not created to be better than others. We were not created to dominate others. We are here to help each other grow and improve and to become the best each can be.
Life gives us the opportunities to grow with the gifts and talents we have been given. Be who you are. You are enough. Do it well. And practice some form of spiritual discipline every day. It will keep you afloat on the ocean of life as well as improve your quality of life.
Make wearing your life preserver a habit. Be intentional about using a spiritual tool every day. Start today and meditate on this wisdom teaching:
The most important pilgrimage is the one from your head to your heart.