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Sep 15

Clouds and Meditation

clouds and meditationWhen I was a kid, I loved to lie in the grass and watch the clouds. Back then, I marveled at and was fascinated by the different shapes and always could find animals in the puffy whiteness and grays.

I thought about those innocent times the other day while I was taking my morning walk. That’s when I realized the innocence was still alive in the relationship between clouds and meditation.

Clouds and meditation

Although I was sharing my walk with towering trees on two sides, I also had a clear view of the sky and the cloud formations. I was quickly transported back in time and again found myself intrigued by the shifting shapes. This time, however, I was not searching for dogs and bunnies among the formations.

For most of my life I have been a notorious multitasker. I have believed it is noble to be busy (aka, “productive’) and for my mind to be grasping and churning all the time. With that mindset, it is understandably a considerable leap to relax into the process of emptying the mind, being present, and practicing mindfulness.

Recently, however, I put the brakes on my runaway train and have been rethinking this approach to my life. People typically do this sort of soul-searching and life-shift for a variety of reasons—change in health, aging, end of a significant relationship, death, loss of employment, etc—but the reason does not matter. What matters is the personal awakening and the desire and willingness to take a different path.

Although I had some experience with meditation several decades ago, my new journey has felt like an entirely different experience. I have been exploring meditation techniques, reading the works of various meditation teachers, and contemplating their words and wisdom. Among the teachers I have read is Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun who has written extensively and simply on the practice of meditation.

Trains, clouds and meditation

In one of her books, How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind, she offers a quote by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a Buddhist meditation master, scholar, and poet. Rinpoche had this to say about meditation:

“The towns and countryside that the traveler sees through a train window do not slow down the train, nor does the train affect them. Neither disturbs the other. This is how you should see the thoughts that pass through your mind when you meditate.”

clouds and meditationYou can hop aboard a train when you meditate or, as I am prone to do, consider passing clouds. As a child I saw lions, rabbits, ice cream sundaes, and flowers. Now, clouds have taken on a whole new meaning. Remember the old Judy Collins song about clouds? In it she said “I look at clouds from both sides now.” How true that is!

Once clouds were whimsical images; now they are a vehicle for my passing thoughts or they may be my thoughts. They are possibilities, hope, love, memories, dreams, worries. They are a raging bull that wisps into a gentle blanket, a towering tree that melts into a river.

I don’t need to physically see the clouds to practice, but they do make wonderful companions during both walking and sitting meditation. For me, clouds and meditation are a perfect blend of calm, wonder, and self-discovery. I wish the same for you, no matter how you choose to practice.

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