The Waves Are Not the Ocean (Part 1 of 2)

The various trials and tribulations, and the emotions that you feel in life, are like clouds—they only look substantial and with time, they eventually change and disappear. But there seem to be a lot of people who grasp their hardships and emotions tightly and kick their feet as they moan, “It’s hard, it’s so hard.” Under such circumstances, it’s only natural for the clouds to stay around longer. Clouds will thicken anyway, wind will blow, rain will pour, and snow will fall. In the midst of all that, trees grow, flowers bloom and wither, and fruit grow. If you know this principle, you can allow the joys, anger, sorrow, and pleasures of life to flow by with serenity; but many people waste all their time clutching clouds that float by.

Many wise men and women have come and gone through this world. They had to go through rainy days, too. But they took it in stride and stayed magnanimous. “Well, it’s raining. When the rain stops, all the greenery will flourish.” “The flowers are blooming. When these flowers wither, new leaves should be growing again.” Because they know that’s the way life is, even when storms roll through their lives, they can laugh out loud.

People tend to get swept up in the turbulence of their emotions and flounder through life, but those who have the wisdom to see the true nature of emotions sit in the depths of the ocean and watch the waves washing across their lives. This is called “yongshim,” or “investing the mind.”

Here, it’s important to distinguish between “emotions” and “mind”—or “heart.” You need to recognize that, even without getting on the proverbial emotional rollercoaster, you can still care deeply about something, give it your “mind.” It’s common for people to say their heart is sad, happy, or lonely. However, this is a kind of heart, or “mind,” that may be different from what you think. These are only emotions; they’re like waves on the ocean of mind. Although waves are in fact part of the ocean, they are not the ocean itself.

When you’re feeling bad, good, sad, lonely, all these things sum up to no more than shadows reflected in the mirror of mind. Without mind, we wouldn’t be able to feel anything at all. It’s the same as the principle that, no matter what beautiful film you may have, even with an excellent video projector, you can’t watch the movie without a screen.

Someone who went to a movie theater for the first time in their life could think that there are mountains and oceans and people living inside of the screen and be amazed. It’s only after they touch the screen that they realize that the objects in the images aren’t “real,” but a projection of light. But even for people who watch movies all the time, when they’re immersed in the movie, it’s natural to think of the movie in the screen as reality.

Our lives are the same. People who spend their time completely immersed only in their own thoughts and emotions don’t think of it as basically being another movie.

If mind is a mirror, then various thoughts and emotions are like shadows reflected in the mirror, or dust covering its surface. So, there’s no need to cling to things, joyful or sad. When you lie down at the end of your day, if there was anything that upset you, try thinking of it this way: “I got to see an interesting movie today.”

In the same way that the screen doesn’t vanish just because the movie is over, there is something that remains unchanging even in the thicket of all the emotions that come and go. There is a certain being that watches the nervousness, the joy, the loneliness and sadness—this is precisely the true self and the mind. Only those people who find this true mind can exercise yongshim, or “using the mind.”

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The Waves Are Not the Ocean (Part 2 of 2)

10 Comments. Leave new

  • Thank you very much–food for the soul!

  • Thank you Ilchi Lee,You explain it so nicely and clearly.I just need to remember it when I’m going thru my negative emotions.

  • Wow, this is so deep and important. Thank you so much!!!

  • This is very helpful…I can use this with my mind screen and watch my emotions come and go. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor says emotions have a lifespan of 90 seconds and we can choose to observe or engage. It’s comforting to know these things come and go and that newness is just around the corner…always. Thank you Ilchi Seuseungnim. I am so grateful to you.

  • Jane Gordon
    June 13, 2011 8:07 am

    Like seasons, there is a time for everything and all flows into eachother. There really is no separation. SSN’s reminder helps us weather all the changes…care deeply but not letting our emotions take over. Without the waves, we’d have no ocean. Without all the ups and downs, challenges and successes, we’d have no life. I especially love the suggestion to comment at the end of a most difficult day—what an interesting movie! Enjoy everything. Thank you, Ilchi Seuseungnim.

  • The true hurt, but help you raise up. Thank you IIchi!

  • When life seems tense, or unpleasant, I’m trying to picture myself sitting on the bottom of the ocean, breathing deeply, and watching the waves ripple overhead. It’s a very calming image.

  • Tonya Whelan
    June 27, 2011 9:42 am

    I like the idea of changing your mind much the way after a long hard day someone can ask you if you want to go do one of your favorite things and your energy/mood can come to a sudden climax with anticipation.
    It is very exciting to do something that you love, and if we were able to harness the mind’s power to become that excited about everything that we do, we’d all live much happier, more productive lives!

  • I love the tip on thinking of my life as a movie – I will make my movie interesting and inspirational!

  • Indeed mind-opening tips to survive our daily trials. Thank you so much!


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