Jim's deep backyard ends at a stream that makes a right-angle turn. So you could say that his backyard is bounded by a burbling brook on 2 sides.
That sedate creek became a raging river last Sunday during Hurricane Irene. When Jim left for church, the brook was turbulent; when he returned, a flash flood had spread over his football-field-sized backyard and into his garage. He was able to close the back door of the garage against the water that was pouring in.
Then he watched as a 15-foot-long brush pile that he'd been adding downed sticks and weeds to for 5 years, floated, turned slightly, and jammed into the back of his garage, effectively forming a beaver dam barrier that was held in place by the force of the water.
In our meditation practice, we eventually learn that the debris of our thoughts are floating down the river of consciousness.
Then, sometime, when we are flooded by the waters of emotion, our mindfulness is strong enough, and we have enough faith that mindfulness can protect us. We decide we can tolerate the turbulent emotion for 1 minute or 10 minutes, and so we watch the flood.
An emotion has 2 parts--body sensations (often unpleasant) and a thought (very slippery). We decide to observe just one of these.
We watch body sensations--the tension, the tightness--or we watch the bumpy, smooth, rough, short, or shallow breath.
If our mindfulness is strong, we watch thoughts go by like downed trees in a swollen river. That thought, which seemed so strong and sturdy and true, actually comes into view, floats by us rapidly, and disappears. Gone.
The next thought rushes by, again gathering all our attention and even our belief in it, then it too is gone.
Mindfulness is our ally during the storms of life.