What or who keeps you steady these days?
When a ship or boat needs to get steady or stay put for a while, someone on the boat drops an anchor (or two). To still the boat, the anchor needs to be the right one(s) for the vessel and the situation.
To feel more steady or calm, I regularly choose anchors - people, rituals, activities, things, places. How do I know what will anchor me? I try something and notice what I’m experiencing. Sometimes, it doesn’t work - so I try something else. In other words, I practice.
Sometimes that practice is meditation. But steadiness can come with other kinds of anchors too. It can come from talking to a friend or family member who me helps me feel calmer. Or going outside for a few minutes to feel the sun and air on my skin. Or doing something creative. Or laughing. Those are my steadying practices too.
There are moments in our lives when we know that we need a really big anchor or more than one. There are times when we need the anchor to hold us quite a while in order before we “set sail” again. Sometimes, what has anchored us in the past won’t stick in another moment. The anchor needs to hold onto what’s underneath, so a navigator needs to pay attention to how deep the water is as well as what the surface underneath is like. Once it’s dropped, you likely can’t see the anchor to check it under the water - you have to rely on other sources of information to know if it’s working.
So how do we know if we’re choosing the “right” anchor? If we’ve truly anchored ourselves?
I check in with my experience in that moment. Do I feel calm, steady, able to weather this particular storm? How long do I want or need to hold steady in this place? Then I check in again: how about now?
When guiding meditation, I often suggest choosing an anchor, and I usually offer ideas for anchors. Typical ones are the rhythm of your breathing, a point of your body, a word or image. But the bottom line is that the anchor has to work for you in that moment. You have to experience, notice the experience, and check in again.
If you can stay open, curious, aware, then when you do find the anchor that works, you’ll know it. Whether you are meditating or doing something else, the practice is really in noticing your experience. The practice is really practicing.
When the moment feels right, you can declare “anchors aweigh.” Until next time.
In the meantime, keep practicing practicing.