Rocks and Flowing Water

by Mary Cook

I look at myself in the mirror. The face that looks back at me is very familiar, like the face of an old friend. Always the same, yet subtly changing, with time.

In reflection and meditation, I look at myself as well, catching glimpses of mental and emotional features of my inner landscape. Sometimes the features that strike me are habits. I have lots of different kinds of habits, like procrastinating, wanting to help others, looking up at the sky as I walk along, or feeling afraid of change. I have built up these habits, repetition by repetition, just as layers of rock build up, grain of sand by grain of sand.

Something else catches my attention as I look at the inner landscape. I see my effort to remain conscious and centered in the present, an effort to choose well where to place my energy. I ask myself: Will I indulge in self-pity? Will I direct my thoughts towards another person's well-being? Will I feel gratitude for the happy moments of this day?

This effort to remain conscious and centered in the present is like the force of flowing water. It has the power to act on the landscape of my mental and emotional habits. It can interrupt my instinctive behavior to put off tackling a problem, and thus slow down the build-up of rocky layers of procrastination. It can also deepen existing pathways in the rock. Sometimes it is possible for me to move from the pathway of outward silence - not voicing my opinion on every subject - to being silent in my mind and able to listen better to the person I am with.

Scanning the inner landscape takes practice, and the more I practice, the more I see. The more conscious I am of how my energy is flowing, the more likely I am to be able to modify the habits of my inner landscape. I find the practices of Cafh very useful in this process: stopping to reflect, the retrospective exam, and the dialogue and affective meditation exercises. If you want to find out more about them, click on these links.