If you have ever taken a meditation class, you probably will have heard the instructor say that you should picture your thoughts as clouds that float in and out of your consciousness. My first instructor was young and probably rather inexperienced and she did not quite explain the goal of meditation or dismantle the most persistent myths that exist around meditation, like the idea that when you meditate your head should be empty. She had said something about emptying your mind, picturing a blue sky and if (not when) we had thoughts we should let them float out of our sight. I remember trying to picture a blue sky and it kept filling with white clouds, masses of them. And very soon I was not picturing a blue sky anymore, I was just very busy chasing these clouds out of my picture. It was a very frustrating and tiring 15 minutes. I tried for a few weeks and then decided this was not for me.
It wasn’t until years later that I heard Jon Kabat-Zinn talk about meditation that it all made sense to me. He said something like thinking is the nature of the mind, meditation is not about not thinking it is about becoming aware of your thinking and then let thoughts be thoughts. I could relate to that. Apparently I had developed a reasonably successful sit-in-a-chair-and-stare-at-my-garden meditation. I just sit in a chair and stare at my garden, my vision unfocused and my thoughts unfocused. And when a thought pops up, I can see it, but I don’t get involved. It’s like I can see a bird hopping through my garden or a butterfly darting, but I don’t zoom in, they just happen to be there while I am staring at my garden.
Last week, I realized that with emotions it is the same as with thoughts. Feeling is the nature of the body. It is the weather in the garden I am staring at. What my garden looks or feels like and what happens in my garden depends on the weather. When it is pouring with rain, my garden looks and feels different than when it is misty or cloudy. And when the sun is shining it looks and feels like a completely different world. Yet in essence, my garden hasn’t changed. Feelings wash through us, they happen, it is our nature. But we can learn to let them be. The sun will come and go, and so will rain and storm; they are transitory. Staring at my garden, I don’t care whether it is sunny or raining, I just stare for the sake of staring. I love staring and I love my garden
The same applies to living. I want to live for the sake of living. Live because I love to live. Live because I love my life. This is my life. This is my one precious life. I want to love it when it is great, love it when it breaks, love it when the sun shines, love it when it rains. A lot of things happen in our life that are beyond our control, yet they feel up close and personal, getting fired or divorced, a baby been born, getting seriously ill, a deep belly laugh with friends, falling in love, a loved one dying. This is our life. This is Life. In our internal garden, things aren’t as neat as in our outdoor garden. There are no fixed seasons and we can have different weather types at once. Somehow it is very easy to fixate our stare on the type of weather we want to be different. We don’t want to feel sadness, pain and grief, they don’t feel comfortable. We stare at the rain and focus on the absence of sun. When we can only see rain, we are focusing to much. When we relax our focus, go into stare mode and see the whole garden again, we will find that it may be raining very hard in one spot, but the rest of your garden is cloudy and sunny.
The trick with both thoughts and emotions is to see the whole garden, not just one spot and to realize that there is sun and rain and that the weather pattern is changing constantly. That is our nature. There is no need to identify with the weather in our garden, but we can choose to focus on the sun without resisting or denying the rain. Don’t tell yourself, I AM sad, because identifying with the sadness will cause you to be sad. Rather, dare to see the whole picture, state that you are feeling sad and feeling joy at the same time and focus on the joy while you allow the sadness it be present in the background.