For several years I worked with the practice of pausing whenever I left a building, to just look up at the sky. To notice what was happening there. I would do this especially before entering or leaving the office.
Each morning and evening, look up. How is mind today? Mind has stars, moon and Milky Way. Mind has rising sun. Mind is cloudy. Mind is dark. Mind is clear blue. Mind is cooling into evening redness.This was a great support for sitting practice, to consider the mind as the big open sky, always changing. To recognize more fully how both are always changing. That thoughts, like clouds -- if allowed to just be in that mind-sky -- would eventually move on or dissipate. That we have internal weather not unlike the outer weather in the sky.
Just last night I made a new connection between internal and outer weather that caused me to recall my old practice of looking up.
Of course we may become wrapped up in our inner weather, and mediation can help us get perspective on that; to work with it. But consider that we also come into unavoidable contact with other weather systems in the form of family, friends, colleagues. And for those the outlook can be anywhere from calm, to stormy-gloomy, or even stormy-exuberant. For most of us, this is weather that cannot help but affect our own weather system.
The National and International climate may also affect our internal weather. Earthquakes, floods, financial collapse -- hard not to be affected.
Cultivating a mind that sees clearly. This can be difficult especially if we are not conscious of the effects of outer weather on our inner weather. So we may need reminders to check the weather, to metaphorically look up, and see what is happening.
Like Joko Beck advises about the practice of specifically labeling our own thoughts, not just "thinking. thinking" or "worrying. worrying. worrying." but "having a thought about work." And through labeling, the thoughts become like the clouds and eventually dissipate. (For most of us, quickly replaced by new clouds!)
Over time as we practice labeling our inner weather, we may also find ourselves better able to label outer weather as we encounter it. Not just "Janine: So angry today!" but to be specific: "Janine is expressing her feelings of anger and frustration." Perhaps that way we can, depending on circumstances, either talk with Janine about, or simply ruminate silently on the roots of that frustration without being drawn into its cyclone.
This is just another way of saying, work with circumstances as they arise. Cultivating a mind that sees clearly.
Back to the practice of looking up at the sky. It has another benefit. After a time, this practice becomes just delightful in that you begin to sense down to your bones something normally reserved for dreams: endless, radical variety. Even viewing the sky from the same vantage every morning and evening, it is never remotely the same twice. Compare two consecutive grey and overcast days, and the quality of grey, the luminosity pushing through the fog...always new, always different.
I want to write about this and its relationship to creativity a some point soon.