… stop down-cutting.


If you’re gullying, it means you’re cutting down into your own foundation.


Gullies don’t down-cut in a uniform fashion all along an entire length at one time. The active erosion occurs at a distinct “nick-point.”

What’s so great about this news is that it means you can find a particular spot and fix it.

The reason its level of destruction can be so complete is that a nick-point migrates up or down the length of its channel, eroding its base as it goes. But you can begin healing by stopping it where it stands today. Now.

Crazy Woman Creek — BEFORE

It’s a super long nick-point.

The most abrupt part of it is the little step on your right.

Please remember The Good News whenever you are approaching a gullying person OR river. It’s easy to forget. Even river professionals will start doing all kinds of other stuff – reshaping the banks, planting deep-rooted woody vegetation on the banks, fencing livestock off the river, protecting the floodplain. Each of these steps is super important. You have heard me speak of them repeatedly! But they won’t stop the gullying. You have to stop the nick-points from down-cutting more of your foundation.


At first, you might say your base is family, friends, religion, career, nature, or some other big part of your life that you value. But those things are important to you because you’ve decided they are. That’s your worldview. How you think about things underlies how you go about living – it forms the very bed of your life.


…by looking for whitewater — some palpable disruption of your mind. It’s intense and abrupt. It looks like a cascade, a riffle, or a little waterfall. You might even consider it a pleasant kind of feature if you weren’t a gully because — let’s face it — sometimes intense and abrupt are healthy. There is good whitewater and bad whitewater in rivers, just as there is “clean pain” and “dirty pain” in humans.

Clean pain hurts and is an appropriate response to a real loss (in which case the painful feeling is sadness), danger (creates fear), or injustice (creates anger). But clean pain doesn’t feel yucky. It feels purely like itself. It comes in intense waves of 90 seconds. And when it first strikes – especially in the first 48 hours after a trauma – focus on feeling that feeling rather than trying to stop anything.

Dirty pain feels yucky. Unlike the pure emotional response of clean pain, dirty pain is a function of our foundation – of how we think about things. It is always associated with some story or thought about loss, danger, or injustice. And the yuckiness goes on and on. There may have been clean pain to begin with, but it’s evolved into something destructive because of your thinking. And the problem is that you really are SURE this painful thought is absolutely, always true. Otherwise you wouldn’t believe it, obviously. But no dirty pain is ever associated with truth. Clean pain is. But dirty pain means there’s some underlying assumption or belief that is false.

Please do not take this to mean that you should feel ashamed of experiencing dirty pain. Every single person does it! With practice, we can fall into it less often, notice it sooner, and stop it more easily, but dirty pain is an inevitable by-product of the amazing Body-Mind-Spirit package that makes us humans unique.

You can usually tell the difference between clean and dirty pain, but if you’re not sure:

    • check your reference reach to see if this kind of turbulence happened in this way during your happy times, or
    • tune into your Body Compass. Like with a river, your physical body is an infallible indicator of whether or not what’s going on is healthy.

But if you’re a gully, any whitewater is probably a nick-point so just pick one painful thought about your suffering — preferably the MOST painful thought since stopping the tallest nick-point will put a stop the worst part of the ongoing destruction. Start there.


In a river:

The most stable kind of riverbed is rock – the bigger or more solid, the better. A river flowing over bedrock or boulders does not down-cut quickly.

In a human:

Does this mean that the most stable kind of thinking is rigid and heavy?

You can test this theory right now. Think of the strictest dogmas you’ve ever heard of or experienced. Then consider the variety of consequences that came from that firmly held belief. Often there is some joy. Always there is some incredibly dirty pain.

The healthiest thinking feels free. It’s always thirsting for truth, investigating ideas to see what’s true… for now. Since life is always changing, rigid beliefs will eventually be false in some way. I think. Of course that could change!

In a river:

So here it is – finally after a year of blogging and three posts just leading up to this gullying fix — here is how you stop a nick-point. You BUILD A CROSS-VANE:

As you can see, to stop a nick-point, we build a rock foundation for the river in that spot. But we can’t just harden the whole river.

Well we could, but then it ends up looking like those “concrete rivers” that run through the middle of many American towns where well-intended but misguided engineers of yore did just that.

We still have to account for the drop in elevation – the disruption – or that energy will just move on downstream and dig up the bed there. So what we do is work with nature’s natural kinds of patterns and create a deep pool that the water can drop into. It generates a lot of turbulence that uses up the energy of the drop. The pool is most people’s favorite part. And there’s so much icing on the cross-vane: it uses natural materials, oxygenates the water, makes lovely habitat for fish and children (and adults!), creates a lovely cascading sound, and is just plain pretty.

In a human:

What’s the human equivalent of a cross-vane? We need something that not only frees up our thinking around the painful belief so we can see if it’s really absolutely true BUT ALSO dissipates all that energy the painful story is carrying —  preferably in an awesomely constructive manner.

The way to free up a painful belief is to ENQUIRE INTO THE THOUGHT WITH AN OPEN MIND:

An especially clear form of such enquiry is presented by Byron Katie. Visit her website for free worksheets.

I hope you will try this kind of thought work at least once because I can’t show you a photo of how it works. Like a cross-vane, thought work not only frees you of pain but somehow transfers the energy of your formerly-rigidly-held thought into a deep pool — of creativity. Releasing the pain feels pleasant, but the creativity afterwards is everyone’s favorite part. Like a cross-vane, thought work uses natural materials –your own sound logic and real experience. It also airs out your overall mind –I call that oxygenation of the highest order. Living like this is the loveliest habitat of all.

Crazy Woman Creek –AFTER.

The blue circle marks the same place

on each photo so you can get your bearings.


Gullies usually have several nick-points, and gullied-out humans usually have a cluster of painful stories. Just grab them one at a time, write them down, ask yourself Byron Katie’s four questions and then think of opposite statements that could be just as true (“turnarounds”). Enjoy the free sensation — and move on to the next painful belief. One day you’ll look around and see you’re no longer down-cutting anywhere but rather flowing happily along creating wonderfulness. That is worth the work.

PS — Afterwards, after you take a few healed breaths, you can revisit The Nifty Algorithm and see if you want to transform your stabilized gully into another type of river altogether. You’ll have the energy to do so when you’re no longer down-cutting.

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