Earlier this summer, I spent a wonderful 24 hours near the Oregon Coast with two dear friends. Along with wonderful meals and conversations, we spent a fair amount of time exploring. Instead of heading a few miles to the coast however, we turned our view inland, following rivers and creeks rapidly descending from the peaks of the Coastal Range.
It was an unsettled trip for me, not because of my fine hosts, but because of some things that happened before my visit. That unsettled feeling stuck with me for quite a while after my trip. I barely looked at the photos I had taken of these moving waters and jagged rocks.
This unsettled feeling has become my constant companion through my mindfulness practice. Whenever anyone tells me they want to meditate for stress relief, I tend to plaster a weak smile on my face and nod noncommittally. Meditation can relieve stress. But it can also churn up feelings long dormant, make you realize where your life is stagnant, and force you to face the truth of your heart.
Not particularly relaxing pursuits.
Often, meditation teachers encourage students to think of their thoughts like clouds. “Watch them drift by,” is the advice they give. My thoughts are less airy and more fluidly muscular… like a river. Ever changing and yet worn into grooves. Powerful enough to move boulders and yet tumbled helplessly over pebbles. Reflecting the sky above when still and foaming with agitation when running fast. My thoughts are changeable, capable of sustaining and destroying in equal measures.
I suspect there is something beyond mere “stress reduction” to be attained from mindfulness practice. It’s bigger and more potent, undermining the thinking that makes stress even possible. But it is not mine. (Yet)
Still, every once in a while, I manage to climb on to the banks of the river, watching it froth and tumble, trickle and eddy. There is peace to be found when you step out of the urgency of the current and into the stillness of the moment.
Even if it is only for a few minutes watching the night transition to day.
All pictures taken by me with my Nikon.