Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teachings
The sun is there, even when it is behind the clouds.
“Missed schedule,” says the computer. An opportunity to let go of annoyance, says me. I’m not sure why this didn’t send, but the new bell from a Thai temple is chiming in the wind, and the birds are calling to one another before the storm. Most is right and good in the universe. And this will reach you when it needs to, I suppose. Apologies, thanks, cheers.
~ ~ ~
Today, the skies are clear and the sun is warm. I am outside, a great place to sit and be peaceful. The birds are chirping and the wind is blowing through the trees, where buds might even be popping: the first signs of spring in the air. And the leaf blowers are going off like crazy.
My mother used to go nuts about them, marching down the street to yell at Mr. Manfredini (the poor guy). She couldn’t stand “three guys chasing one leaf around the backyard and polluting the whole neighborhood.”
That’s what I am hearing right now, envisioning the one leaf and the three men with blowers who “disturb” my otherwise picture-perfect scene. There is grouchiness attached to this thought, of course, because they are disturbing my peace. And, since there aren’t any leaves on the trees yet, these guys are causing unnecessary suffering to me (certainly on purpose, right?), which is something to be avoided, Buddhism teaches. (This distinction between suffering, which is part of life and to be endured, and unnecessary suffering is integral to Buddhist teaching). Hmm, I must be discerning with my reaction.
I try to create an opportunity out of it, knowing I cannot control my meditation environment, just my response to it. A second blower to the east is getting fired up. I am surrounded. Holy moly, there goes a third. Okay, it is officially a chorus.
But I am going to turn that frown upside down, and here’s how. My teacher encourages the clear sky meditation. The analogy is best understood on a rainy, gray day in Chicago. I might call it the “Lake Forest effect,” and I’m afraid we have a few in the pipeline…
The sky is overcast. The clouds hanging oppressively low. Low-hanging cloud cover can feel gloomy, with thoughts and moods closing in on us. The clouds (our thoughts) feel limiting, like a defining boundary, and it’s hard to see past them. Still, we must trust that a vast, blue sky is just behind them. We are the vast and limitless sky. Our thoughts and feelings are just the weather.
“In our society, there is so much fear, suffering, violence, despair, and confusion. But there is also, at the same time, the beautiful blue sky. Sometimes the blue of the sky reveals itself to us entirely. Sometimes it reveals half of itself, sometimes just a little bit of blue peaks through, and sometimes none at all. Storms, clouds and fog hide the blue sky. The kingdom of heaven can be hidden by a cloud of ignorance or a tempest of anger, violence and fear. But if we practice mindfulness, it’s possible to be aware even if the weather is very foggy, cloudy or stormy, the blue sky is always there for us above the clouds. Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
~ Thich Nhát Hánh
Today, practice this perspective, and feed it into every stormy day. Be an observer. Know that the weather will go just as naturally as it comes. Below are some of my favorite reflections on this: a recorded meditation by Jack Kornfield and a song by Sara Thomsen. It’s just weather.