Updated: Mar 20, 2021
Lake Meditation by Dr. Sunita Rai
by Sunita Rai
(script adapted and expanded from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Lake Meditation)
Guided Meditation Track can be found here.
Welcome to the Lake Meditation.
Lie down or sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair. Gently close your eyes and bring your awareness to the present moment.
Bringing your attention to your body and noticing the weight of your body as you sit here. Noticing the parts of your body that comes into contact with the chair, the floor or the mat. Shifting your attention to your feet, all the way to the tip of your toes. Now bringing your attention from your toes, all the way to the top of your head, noticing all the physical sensations of your body including your muscles and bones.
Now allowing the body to be at the background of your attention, while shifting your attention to your breathing. Noticing every single inbreath and outbreath as you inhale and exhale without the need to change or manipulate your breath in any way.
Your breath is always with you regardless of where your mind goes. Whenever you feel distracted by your thoughts, gently and firmly bring your attention to your breathing. Bring a sense of curiosity to every single inhalation and exhalation.
As you are breathing, notice where in your body you can experience your breath the most. Perhaps it’s at your nostrils, your throat, your chest or in your belly. Keep observing your breath in that preferred spot as you inhale and exhale. Feeling every single breath as it comes in and out your body without changing the breath in any way. Letting your breath be as it is in every moment.
And now, allow your breath to be in the background of your attention. Bring to your mind’s eye a picture of a lake on the sunny afternoon. A body of water being held by the earth. The water is not high up but rather pooling in low places. It asks to be wrapped, contained and cradled by the earth. It is a standing body of water with nowhere to go. In stillness, it stays here.
The lake may be small or large. It may be shallow or deep, blue or green, muddy or clear. There is no wind and therefore, the surface of the lake is flat and nonmoving. It mirrors its surrounding. You can see the reflection of the sun, sky, clouds, birds, trees and rocks in the lake. The lake seems to be supporting everything within itself. There is a sense of silence and peacefulness in this very moment.
Now, there is a gentle wind blowing. The wind may stir up ripples and waves in the water. The clear reflection starts to disappear and you see distortions instead. You also see the sunlight sparkle in the ripples and dance on the waves in a play of shimmering diamonds. The waves seem to have a rhythm of their own as they move. After some time, the wind stops and you see the reflections of the sun, sky, clouds, birds, trees and rocks in the lake again.
It is now nightfall. The still water reflects the outline of the trees, shadows, stars and the moon. It is calm. There is gentle wind and the still water now starts to move. The reflections become distorted and you can see the moon dancing on the lake for some time before the water stills again.
In winter, the lake may freeze over. There may be no reflection at all. And yet, there is life below the layer of ice with fishes and other creatures moving around. There is stillness and movement in harmony.
As you sit or lie here breathing, allowing yourself to become one with the lake by bringing the picture of the lake inside of yourself completely. Allowing your being to completely merge with the lake, so that all your energies in this moment are held by your awareness and by your openness and compassion for yourself, in the same way, as the lake’s waters are held by the receptive and accepting basin of the earth herself. You are now the lake with awareness, openness and compassion.
Breathing with the picture of the lake in your mind moment to moment. Feeling the lake’s body as your body. Allowing your mind and your heart to be open and receptive, to reflect whatever comes near. Experiencing the moments of complete stillness, when both reflection and water are completely clear. There is calmness. And experiencing moments when the surface is disturbed, choppy, stirred up whereby reflections and depth is lost for a period of time. Know that you are the lake in every moment. You have a sense of accommodation to the stillness and the movements.
Through it all, as you dwell in meditation, simply observing the play of the various energies of your own mind and heart, the fleeting thoughts and feelings, impulses and reactions, which come and go. These thoughts, feelings and sensations are no different from the ripples and waves which disrupt the reflections for a few moments. Noticing their effects, observing the various changing energies at play on the lake such as the wind, the waves, the light, the shadows and the reflections.
Being here in meditation, notice if your thoughts and feelings disturb the surface. Do they disturb the clarity of your mind? Does that bother you or are you okay with it? Do they muddle your thinking? Isn’t a ripple or wavy surface part of an intimate, essential aspect of being a lake? Perhaps it is possible for you to identify with the surface as well as the entire body of the water, so that you become the stillness below the surface as well, which at most experiences only gentle movements, even when the surface is rough and bumpy. You are the entire lake in every moment, in every breath, whether moving or nonmoving.
In the same way, in your meditation practice and in your daily life, be in touch with the changing content of your thoughts and feelings, and also with the vast unwavering reservoir of awareness itself, residing below the surface of your mind. You are the entire lake in every moment, both on the surface and deep within yourself.
Setting an intention to hold in awareness and acceptance, all the qualities of the body and mind, just as the lake sits held and cradled by the earth, reflecting sun, moon, stars, trees, clouds and sky, birds and light, caressed by the air and the wind, which brings out and highlights its sparkle, its vitality and essence in every moment.
As you continue to sit here in meditation, you can learn to experience the lake in your daily life. Embody the same awareness, accommodation, acceptance and gratitude in the face of everything that you experience in your life.
In the time that remains, continuing to sustain the lake meditation on your own, in silence, moment by moment, until you hear the sound of the chime to open your eyes and continue the day with a sense of awareness and acceptance.