Cloud watching

cloud watching

When we are in a good mood, we tend to have a greater perspective on events in our lives and are overall more resilient. We are ready to take more risks, and we don’t take things too personally. Conversely, when we are in a bad mood, everything seems much worse, and the smallest bump on the road can become a source of irritation. In tempestuous emotional states, we are even capable of causing harm to people we love.  Seeing how impactful our moods are, there is a natural desire to be more in control of our them.

Nevertheless, it is important to understand that moods are not easily controllable. Bottling up anger or frustration, for example, is asking for trouble. What we can do, though, is not feed them and try to release them. In the same way, as thoughts can be seen and let go of during meditation, we can watch our feelings and circumstances without being caught by them. It requires a little practice, but it is possible.

An image that is often used to help us visualise the process is cloud watching. With the right attention, we can look at what is coming our way as if it were clouds. I was reading about this last night and wondered if the practice would be made easier by actually looking at the sky. Living in England and not far from the sea, I have the advantage of the erratic British weather. A little word of warning, for those of us who are a little impatient it does not work very well when the sky is still! No matter – the act of looking up and gazing far above our heads can help us to change perspective.

Looking at clouds is often associated with children, poets, dreamers and carefree people – but it does not have to be. It does not hurt anybody to take a little break and look up. The sky is a great reminder that everything moves – even when things appear still. The worry or current problem that may overwhelm us currently will lift and pass by.

There is an important difference that is worth exploring between the real sky and our internal sky. The former is entirely out of our control, while the latter is often used as a screen or a lens on which we project our mind movies. In other words, a part of us is responsible for clouding our consciousness with old thoughts and feelings. The more we get caught in the drama that is played, the harder it will be to watch our current thinking. Internal cloud watching is best done without any screens, filters or tinted glass.

When caught in a mental tease is it possible to take a ten-minute break and practice cloud watching? First, if you can, observe the real sky and watch the movement or the vastness of it all. Then, look at the internal sky, the movement of your thoughts without being caught by them. Try to detect the projector and switch it off if you can. The problems won’t be solved, but a change of perspective and perhaps a shift in mood may occur.

Remember that life may bring some dark clouds, but everything is in constant motion, and we can expect most things to pass. Being good at watching the clouds can help us clear our inner skies.


One sentence journal – day 12:
“Going through family pictures on a computer is frustrating, pleasant, moving and also disconcerting. ”

This blog is part of a renewed 42-day writing challenge inspired by Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits Book.
Photo: Iren Petrova