“I don’t meditate because I can’t stop thinking!” This is such a hilarious excuse that it tells me the person hasn’t really done their research. This is so funny to me when people say it for one very critical reason, meditation is the practice of clearing our thoughts. One of my favorite teachers, Pema Chodron, teaches with a visual aid of clouds which happens to work perfectly for many of us.
When you begin to meditate imagine a clear blue sky and each time a thought enters the brain simply visit it, for just a moment, then let is float away. When I meditate I like to have a pen and paper beside me because inevitably I have forgotten to do something and want to remember to do it. The easiest way for me to let that cloud go is to write it down. The other thoughts I get are a constant banter of what I might have done wrong or what might go wrong. I also analyze what I have said and then criticize myself to a point that is not helpful or productive. I tend towards perfectionism and often will expect nothing less of myself. As a result I am often beating myself up. This behavior is not productive although at times it can be my drive. Many of us have a double edged sword like this.
When people say to me that we can be our own worst enemy I know exactly what they are talking about. Simply, my self analyzation and criticism is often incredibly loud and I work hard to keep it down. This ends up creating a sensitivity to criticism because I am often in the defensive mode. If I believe I am to blame for something I will twist the knife in my soul deeper than anyone else is capable. I am capable of truly hurting myself. In the past I have used this same behavior pattern to cut myself as well as suicidal tendencies. My battle scars are enough to remind me that if I let this go on too long I could end up there. I must tell myself something different otherwise my thoughts and mind will take over my life.
Today, I practice meditation and in that I used Pema Chodron’s advice. I image a clear sky and usually a cloud would appear. Today I visit it a little bit and then often with my breathe I blow it away. In my visualization, I put words or symbols on the clouds to represent the thought. I simply breathe it in, look at it, feel it, and then blow it away. Make sure you feel it, otherwise your just suppressing your feelings. I learned that suppressing the feelings todays means explosions tomorrow. Instead, allow yourself to feel the pain, frustration, anger, or sadness – then simply blow it away. I will have cloud after cloud come in and if I don’t stay on top of it I find myself lost in thought rather than concentrating on the clear blue sky. Quickly a cloudy sky becomes a storm of depression. I know that I must return to meditation. There is no perfection in this. This is why its a practice! I simply breathe in deep and blow all the clouds away so that I can once again have a clear blue sky.
Over time things change and circumstances change. Different issues will arrive and when I begin to have second thoughts, self criticism, or worries I simply feel them and let them go. Usually I like to blow them away with a big breathe, leaving me to feel like I have room for the good stuff in me. Even when I am not in meditation and something enters my brain I chew on it a bit and then simply blow it away. The practice becomes easier in time and the clearing of the brain becomes an essential way to exist in this world.
One of my favorite places to clear my mind is deep in the forest. I love to be way up high or beside moving water. I like it to have as little human interference as possible. The more natural and remote the deeper I can go in my mind clearing. I love to practice as deep into wilderness I can find. In urban spaces I have found that walking up to a big tree, putting my hands on the trunk, and looking straight up at the underneath of the leaves will help me clear my mind. Nature is the ultimate healer and is always ready to bring healing for us. So when we are open to connecting in this way we will find instant healing. Being open to it and seeking it out is most of the work.
As a result of this practice most of us find that we can function in our worlds better. We don’t make up stories about how someone might be mad at us. We don’t self criticize and take the fault for anything. We don’t worry so much that we become frozen. Using MC Yogi’s music to support a clearing another effective approach. “Heaven is here when the mind is clear.” This lyric helps me remember to clear and often I will listen to this song in my yoga practice/meditation to help me stay focused on the clear blue sky. I encourage you to try whatever music you like and to even experiment with silence. Clearing the clouds is a simple practice that can bring great relief to anyone’s brain!
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