There are hundreds of ways to meditate. And all of these ways are vastly different from one another. However, there is still just one name to describe all of these mindfulness practices, and that is meditation. These practices have different goals and are used in different situations. The worst part is, most of us have this age-old image of meditation.
When someone tells us to meditate, we think of the monk sitting on a mountain (who has probably been there for years) with eyes closed and cross-legged. This monk is so far away from our lifestyle that we cannot imagine ourselves relating to this monk or relating to meditation. So even when science suggests that meditation is good for us, we are unable to practice it.
We need a modern image of meditation. We need to explore different ways of practicing mindfulness and understand which one works for us. But let's just take a minute and talk about meditation in a slightly more traditional sense.
We often think that meditation is stopping all our thoughts. That the only way to meditate is to sit cross-legged on the floor and just focus on our breath, avoiding all thoughts and feelings. This is literally the opposite of what meditation is. We spend so much of our time not feeling and burying our thoughts deeper that this is completely counterintuitive. We need to wait for our thought and feelings and view them as they pass like clouds in the sky.
This is where the famous quote of Pema Chödrön comes to rescue. In her quote, she says that everything that comes up while you are meditating is the weather. Not just the one-off winds and a night of rain. Even that cyclone and the fierce storm (which you think defines who you are as a person) will just pass like the weather.
This quote is deep and layered with meaning. Here Chödrön asks us to think of ourselves as the sky while meditating. When the weather is bad, the sky is not affected. There are disturbances, yes but the sky is calm, viewing everything from above and just being itself. In the same way, as you meditate, think of yourself as the sky. See your thoughts and feeling passing by without getting too attached to them. Let things come up when you meditate, if it helps, you can also say, "thank you for sharing, but now I let you go" to help you move on from it. Don't try to stop the emotions that come up. Some of them will shake us and wring us to the core. That is okay, too. That too shall pass.
The idea is to not give up when these feelings come up. And also to not get attached to them. Being kind to ourselves as we are going through the bad weather is crucial. Unless we fully experience our feelings, we cannot let them go.
Differentiating between the sky and the weather
This is difficult for us, sometimes. We are unable to differentiate where our feelings and emotions end and where we begin. This is going to be a process. Sometimes, it takes a few years for us to understand that we are not what we feel. We are what sits in the seat of consciousness. We are pure awareness and knowing. While we may feel that we are our emotions and feelings, in the beginning, regular meditation can help us distinguish between the two of them. During this transition phase, remember that our emotions and feelings pass. They also change. So we are not our emotions or feelings.
The sky is also a metaphor for the clear and vast nature of our souls. That is what we truly are. We are expansive and eternal. The weather clouds our view every now and then but behind all that we are still there.
We hope you found the connection between this quote by Pema Chödrön and meditation useful. We would love to hear in the comments what you think about the quote and how you perceive meditation.