I was talking to some people I’d just met while on a hike, and the conversation made it’s way to meditation. That tends to happen if you’re talking with me.
I was trying to find a simple analogy for someone to understand the experience of what one is trying to achieve from meditation, and to also contrast all the misinformation out there she had received just like I had (like trying to “clear your mind” and such).
We happened to be standing near a currently-dry river bed.
It occurred to me that the initial aim of meditation practice is similar to that of someone being swept away by a raging river. Your aim is not to stop the river, but to get out of the water!
The mind and its “river of thoughts” is constantly dragging you “downstream” with it, thrashing you about. Meditation practice will slowly cultivate the concentration and focus skills to allow you to realize you’re being swept along, then to get your bearings and find a branch on shore to grab on to, and eventually you’ll be able to pull yourself out of the river.
There is actually no need to stop the river.
Eventually, you might even want to take a boat back out on to the river. It’s way more enjoyable being on the river when you’re not being sloshed about, barely able to gasp for breaths.
Your goal with meditation should be to get out of the river, dry yourself off, and look back at the waterway from the perspective from on of the river banks.
Don’t try to stop the river!