Relating to the Weather

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How we relate to the weather says a lot about how we relate to life.  And we can use our relationship to the sky as a mindfulness tool (a barometer if you will) to look more deeply into our conditioned responses in our daily lives.

The first step is to shine the light of awareness onto how we perceive the weather day in and day out.  Do we find ourselves obsessively worried about it, checking the forecast often?  Are we disappointed when anything other than sunshine happens?  When the weekend rolls around do we find ourselves saying, “Man, I really hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow, that would suck.”  Do we describe the day as dreary, awful, or some other adjective for unpleasant when it’s simply cloudy out?  How quick are we to label the day as “bad” solely based on the weather?  Do we dread any sort of physical discomfort or complain about the cold, heat, rain or snow?

This may seem trite but I would counter that indeed it is the areas that we label as un-important in life that can often bear the most fruit.  If we get bent out of shape over the weather, which is almost entirely out of our control, it stands to reason that there are other areas in which we are not grounded in our lives.  Getting bent out of shape can take many forms from anger to mild irritation to simply carrying your hope for “better” weather around with you in the back of your mind.

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If our relationship to the weather is that of it never being just right or commonly waiting for the promise of tomorrow to bring more sun, more warmth or more whatever it is we think will make us happy this provides a mirror for us to see how we relate to the present moment.  When we spend our present moment waiting for something better to happen in the next moment, whether it be in regards to the weather or not, we carry with us the stress of never being satisfied.  When we spend our lives waiting for better weather we spend our lives waiting for a day that never comes.  Learning the art of Be Here Now is the most valuable practice we can offer to ourselves, our loved ones, our community, and the world.

Being here now is not an ethereal idea or intellectual thought it is a true practice – a practice that you engage with and bring alive.  The practice doesn’t just happen on its own when the conditions are “right”, you have to actually do it.  It can be easy at first to think that Be Here Now means to deny your feelings or cover up certain parts of your experience but this is not the case.  To Be Here Now is to let go of the stories we attach to life’s unfolding that are neither skillful for our process of moving forward or provide value.  When we practice letting go of our regrets about the past and worries about the future the present moment is available to us.

We create the internal garden that we water.  When we water seeds of negativity, self-doubt, self-pity, complaining, worrying, stress, fear, anger, and so on those are surely the seeds that will grow inside of our mental, physical and emotional states of being.  When we water seeds of joy, ease, acceptance, openness, connection, adaptation, letting go, and so on those are surely the seeds that will grow.  What kind of garden do we want to nourish right here in this present moment?

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Equanimity

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Until recently I have not understood or had a clear sense about what it meant to cultivate equanimity.  In looking up the definition online I came across the all mighty wikipedia’s two cents: Equanimity is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind. The virtue and value of equanimity is extolled and advocated by a number of major religions and ancient philosophies.

It turns out I should’ve looked up the darn word years ago because after reading the definition I can understand what it means right away.  Big words oftentimes confuse me.  So now here I am traveling on the path of mindfulness and zen based practice of which I’ve been on for some 10 years or so and this elusive, or rather seemingly elusive, teaching grows alongside my steps in, also seemingly, sudden thickets.

It seems to me that with consistent, diligent practice certain teachings start coming about effortlessly.  Of course much effort has actually gone on along the path but much like when you work hard cultivating good soil  on a patch of earth for a time nature then is supported in taking care of the rest.

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In basic terms equanimity is the practice of letting go.  It is being able to rest in the moment just as it is – to lay our worries and anxiety down.  Experience has shown me that when I wait for life to come together or get better or for happiness to arise in the future I continue to travel down an illusory path of non-harmony.  The practice of thinking that happiness is possible only when certain conditions arise and line up in a specific way is not only detrimental to my well being it is on every level imaginable simply not true.

Happiness rooted in circumstances outside of myself, such as a certain job, certain relationship, more money, a better car, more stuff etc., is a fast burning fuel.  Once the high of obtaining such things wears off I am left once again craving the next best thing to happen.  Equanimity teaches us that it is possible to be content and at ease in the here and now despite the happenings going on around us.  When a storm sweeps in through the forest if we were to look at the tops of the trees we would see the thin branches and leaves blowing about tumultuously but when we look down to its base we see it is rooted very solidly in the earth.  With practice we can become more and more like the trunk of a large tree, unwavering and firmly grounded in equanimity.

I used to confuse equanimity with a lack of care or emotion.  But I see now more clearly that it is a matter of developing a different relationship to life and its unfolding.  With the practice of cultivating equanimity our energy is given the opportunity to transform from creating drama to creating dharma in any situation and with every person we encounter.

Basking

Photo on 2012-12-05 at 12.40

I’m at the laundry mat writing this, sitting on the cool tile floor next to a large window as the sun streams in as if it were springtime and not December in the mountains.  My laundry sits in the spin cycle among the rows of washing machines.  Just outside there is a picnic bench and I sat atop it for 10 or 15 minutes just before coming inside to write.  I sat and enjoyed the day.  I enjoyed the sun’s warmth on my face, the shadows of clouds moving across the mountain sides, the gentle breeze combing through my hair.  How rare an occurrence to sit and enjoy, simply to sit and enjoy.  A lost art perhaps.

While sitting outside a car passed by and its wet crackling tires on the road suddenly transported me to my childhood.  I grew up on the east coast and frequently went down the shore.  And usually during the summer I would visit Rehobeth Beach in Delaware with my grandparents and stay in a campground in their trailer, usually with a cousin or two.  They would always bring a couple of bikes along and usually in the morning when the sun was still gearing up for its hottest display my cousins and I would bike around the sandy campground, which was right by an inlet and prime beach spot.  The thin rubber bike tires rolling over the sandy ground were a comforting and familiar sound, the sound of summer.  And with one passing car I was briefly taken to that campground, slowly pedaling around with nowhere to go and everything to enjoy.

When I was sitting outside soaking in the surroundings I was struck by how quickly the sun can be surpassed by a cloud.  Suddenly the bright day went gray and the beaming sun was subdued.  But it was only a little bitty cloud that passed by.  A baby cloud drifting through the sky sunk the sun into darkness.  It reminded me how quickly our own light can be covered over.  How fast our own joy is dampened by an external factor, how much we rely on external factors to create our happiness in the first place.

We can learn much from the clouds.  They pass over the sun and then keep traveling.  They don’t stick around for long.  Even if it is a still day soon the clouds will pass overhead.  We have a tendency to get stuck, to cloud over our own light and stay darkened by its shadow, by our own attachments and spinning stories.  Feelings, struggles, strong emotions, and challenges come and go like clouds in the sky, they are not permanent walls of stone unless we construct them as such.  Let us step out from behind the clouds of impermanence and shine our lights bright and strong and free.