A metaphor for one way the brain works is a river basin. Water falling into creeks at the headwaters of the Colorado River will lead inevitably to the Colorado, not to the Mississippi. Multiple creeks and tributaries will feed into one large river. As more water flows, rivers may get wider and deeper, and canyons can be carved out of even the hardest stone.
Similarly, every time we run a particular mental pattern, that pattern is more likely to occur. It is said that neurons that fire together, wire together. So if we are used to worrying, for instance, we can say we create a worry canyon. All the different worries are like tributaries of the same river, leading to the same feelings of stomach tightening and mind contracting.
If we find ourselves daydreaming of a pleasant time, our thoughts are said to meander, the name of a river in Turkey which means a winding pattern.
Mindfulness can be a wonderful tool in exploring the territory of the rivers of our minds. The sun shines brightly when we are in the spacious parts of our experience. Even in the deepest part of the Grand Canyon, however, the sun occasionally shines directly.
Like the sun, our awareness can be shone into each aspect of our experience. If we are able to meet these moments with friendly curiosity and acceptance, we more fully appreciate the potential beauty of all experience. And, if we find ourselves in an unwise pattern, with awareness we can “evaporate” out of that canyon into a neutral, more skillful pattern.
Photos: Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, 2010