The Deschutes River speaks of change on this last truly warm day before winter begins its icy descent. The water roars through a canyon and then softens into a quiet meander—framed by red-barked willows and nearly bare aspen trees. A wader-clad man steps into the middle of the more tranquil stream. He holds a fly rod and supports some precious cargo on his back. His son bounces joyfully in a child carrier and giggles with each step and each cast of the fly.
At one point the father/fisherman stumbles. He steps on a large stone that appears to be a good spot for solid footing, but it is anything but stable. It rocks like a seesaw, and the man teeters back and forth until managing to find his balance. His child only laughs—oblivious to the averted fall. I notice how I am more identified with the father and feel anxious about his son spilling into the frigid water. I wonder why I am not the laughing child.
Upon reflection, I see the pattern in my mind—the one that makes me prone to anxiety and fear. It amuses me. In times past I would cling to the fear and maybe judge the father harshly for taking such a risk with his child. But then I smile at the vision of a father sharing his joy with his son. And his son was obviously having a joyful time.
The way we frame an experience is always a matter of choice. It is how we find balance when we are feeling unstable. With practice, meditation merges seamlessly into moment to moment awareness— offering us the flexibility to choose any one of infinite possibilities. In modern jargon, meditation can provide the experience of neuroplasticity. We become cognitively flexible. We are innately free to opt for a more joyful, kind and compassionate perspective. This is none other than bodhicitta, our natural awareness, unfiltered by habit patterns.