Consciousness is like a river. Picture yourself standing in the middle of a stream. The water brings a lot of things, but they are never the same. Whatever is passing by you in any given moment, makes up your thought of that moment. Most of the amount you only notice subliminally. Some of it passes near you, you become conscious of it and see it clearly. It can be a fish, or it can be a particular whirl of water. If you don’t reach for it, it will pass along with the stream.
But what if you get attached to that particular bit of water and want to hold on to it? Well, you’ll get a cup, and catch the water in the cup. Now you are standing in the stream, a cup of water in one hand to focus your attention on, while much of what is floating around, you will now miss completely. There you see another swirl that looks similar to the previous one, and thus is catches you attention and you want to add it into your cup. But the cup is full already. So you get a bucket and pour water from the cup to the bucket. Everything that attracts your attention reminding you of a familiar swirl, goes into the bucket. You have another bucket, for a different kind of swirls. You have one bucket for fish, and one for driftwood. Another one for detritus which doesn’t fit anywhere else.
And so you find yourself heavy laden with buckets full, the stream’s push feeling ever stronger up against you. You don’t see the river anymore, just your buckets, trying to catch whatever belongs into which bucket into the right bucket, and hold on to it. It’s a struggle. You might even try to walk up against the stream in the hope that you will catch more fish there. You’ve lost awareness of the river, and so you don’t ever realize that you are pushing up the stream.You just think that that’s the way it is, because all you know are your buckets. You have forgotten that everything just floats towards you, effortlessly.
And so you walk up, arms heavy with those buckets. The temperature drops your feet are freezing, you are thirsty, water splashing against your face, fills your nose and makes your eyes burn. Big fish trying to knock you over, the stream is dragging you down…but you are pushing through, up against the stream, because that’s all you know now. For what’s it worth, you’d even climb up a slippery waterfall if need be, because that’s the only direction you know. But it don’t need be. At a certain point the buckets become too heavy, your hands give in, and you’ll let go. Maybe just of a few at first, but as exhaustion sets in, you will eventually let go of all them. Your muscles give in. Now you’re not even standing anymore. You are being carried.
No effort. Now you have time to pay fierce attention. But you don’t grasp. You just watch in awe the current that you are a part of. Your awareness expands. You’re flowing towards the ocean, that rejects no river, and you’ve remembered that you are the river. All the rivers, and the ocean too.
No matter how polluted, the ocean will disperse and purify you. You will be dismantled into molecules, and each molecule will go on a separate journey. It will evaporate, and join the clouds. It may become a snowflake in the process. Until it joins with other molecules and becomes a raindrop. Some raindrops pass through rocky terrains, some fall on a desert. Some get to know mountains and rain forests, others yet barren landscapes. And some just fall right back into the ocean. But sooner or later, all of them will pass through the depths of dark soil and create springs and rivers, and each of those molecules will carry a different memory.
The molecules of water in the river, are universal thoughts in the stream of consciousness. You standing in the middle, is also a thought. The thoughts might appear different, but they are all neutral. They only become heavy when you grasp onto them and fill your buckets.