Think of your mind as a large, snow covered hill. Now think of your thoughts as small individual sleds that go sliding down the hill. As each sled makes its way, it leaves a trace –a memory of sorts. But there’s not just a memory of having taken that path before; there’s also a certain inclination to take that path again when given the same starting point atop the hill.
When we are young, the snow is fresh. When given a concept to ponder and a model to build, we take many different paths down the hill. We strive to discover which ones lead somewhere worth going. We are uncertain about our trajectories, yet we are open and curious to new directions as they emerge. Sometimes we forge new troughs, other times, we take the routes we know.
As time wears on and we grow older, the troughs become trenches. Now, we seldom go down the hill without falling into an old, predictable pathway. And in many ways, predictable is good. Predictable is comfortable. Predictable is safe.
When you consider your philosophies, your spiritual subscriptions, your family values–you want to be sure about what you know. After all, these are the cultural tenants of the human condition. It is out of these things that your self-concept–and, if you’re lucky–your self-confidence–is born.
At some point, though, the path becomes the prison. And despite a felt sense of agency–a visceral feeling that we could do differently than what we do, we could take paths we haven’t–we do not. We do precisely what we have done. We go precisely where we’ve gone. And this is where the rubber meets the road, or perhaps, where the sled meets the snow.
If the paths you forge lead to a sense of kindness, gratitude and openness, then maybe they’re worth travelling. But if instead they lead to cynicism, craving and disconnection, then maybe they’re not. Being captive in paradise may be perfectly desirable but being captive in hell requires serious action.
But what if it snows? What if the paths are covered with a fresh layer of powder? Even if the runs are the same, the paths are erased. Now we have the option to forge new trails down familiar territory. It’s a kind-of rebirth if you will. This is the utility of the psychedelic ‘trip’ or a commitment to contemplative practices like yogic meditation.
Ultimately, however, you must remember: you are neither the path nor the snow. You are the hill beneath. You are unchanged by the forging of new paths, nor the elimination of new ones. The contents of your experience may change, but you are not the contents of experience, you are experience itself. You are the space in which those contents emerge.