The river runs through us
Think of your life as a river. The surface rippling with thoughts; sometimes rapids throwing spray into the air; other times mellow and meandering. There are moments where we get so caught up in the turbulence of these ripples that we panic, we struggle, and we’re unable to breathe.
If thoughts are like the ripples on the river, we can learn to rest on the bank and watch them coming and going, but never chasing or getting swept away in them.
River of life
Like a river, our life is in constant motion. We feel our best when we’re moving in flow with life, and we feel our worst when we’re struggling, stuck, or attempting to swim back upstream (the past).
Trying to stop the ripples by placing a big rock in the river may stop the flow initially, but as the pressure builds, the water will persistently find its way through. This is much the same as our thoughts and emotions, we can attempt to stop them, but they’ll inevitably find their way through. The solution is to not try and block them or get sucked into them, but go with the flow, and allow them to come and go.
Compare this to moving your attention away from a sound. The sound of a raging river can be overwhelming, but as you stretch out on the bank, perhaps opening up a good book, suddenly your attention is shifted and you hardly notice the sound.
Caught in a whirlpool
In a river, whirlpools happen when the water flows in a downward spiral. In our mind, we can get stuck on a thought that keeps us from being in flow, sucking us down into it.
When pulled towards the whirlpool, don’t panic, a couple of strong strokes will get you back on the right path. Rather than letting your mind spin in all directions, turn your focus to the present, breath and remain calm. Be present with what your body is doing, the sounds around you, and anything else that can anchor you to the moment. Try going for a short walk, hop on your bike, call or visit a friend, do something creative, practice meditation.
The source and the outcome
When you become aware that your life is like an entire river—from the source, through each twist and turn, to the ocean all at once—you realize there’s no need to be concerned by a ripple on your journey, because soon enough you’ll experience a calm stretch once again. A river meanders through the terrain, and sometimes doesn’t appear to be heading toward its destination—seemingly moving in the wrong direction, yet every river is already at its destination.
There will be times when the flow of life will be peaceful and calm, other times it will rage and swirl. Just remember that the reality of impermanence means rough times will come, and they will go.
- Imagine you’re sitting on the riverbank
- Listen to the water trickling over the rocks
- Notice the bright green trees on the riverbank
- Breath in deeply, and slowly exhale
- Notice the leaves floating down the river, swirling and bumping over the ripples and disappearing into the distance
- Take each thought that enters your mind and place it on a leaf—every sad, anxious, happy, or neutral thought—and let it float by
- Allow the river to flow at its own pace. Don’t try to rush your thoughts away. You’re not trying to get rid of your thoughts, you’re simply allowing them to come and go
- If a painful feeling arises, acknowledge it, then place it on a leaf and allow it to float along
Morning on the Mamquam 22″ x 28″
by Rachelle Hynes