Cloud Watching (some more thoughts on thoughts)

Our feelings are a direct response to our thoughts. We create our reality with our thoughts.

It’s not like this is a new idea to me, but it does feel more concrete this time around. 

Imagine thoughts as clouds. 

The weather, our moods and feelings, will change depending on what kind of clouds are occupying the sky at that moment. And yet, it’s okay. Even if they are stormy clouds darkening the skies and pouring down on us, it’s okay. It doesn’t mean that we need to run for cover. It doesn’t mean that those clouds are an indication that something is wrong. We are feeling in response to thoughts – not reality – not circumstances – thoughts. 

When I have moments of panic that come from thoughts of imminent sickness, I often feel completely overwhelmed as I give those thoughts a lot more credit than they deserve. I believe the fact that I’m THINKING them, means what they are saying is a TRUTH. It goes a bit like this..

“I think I’m going to be sick. Why would I think that? Oh fuck, I’m going to be sick. It must be true, because if it wasn’t true, why else would I even have had that thought to begin with?! No, no, no, I don’t want to be sick.”….and cue rest of a panic attack.

On the outside I can see – that’s me, responding to my thoughts (i.e. NOT reality). It’s hard for me to tell the difference at times like those because I could swear to you that it IS my reality- that the thoughts are second to what’s actually happening. As if my body told my mind what was going on, and now my mind is communicating that FACT to me. And it doesn’t matter how many times that scenario plays out, I react to my thoughts as truths. 

But the truth remains, thoughts are just thoughts. They aren’t powerful, they aren’t indicators of truth, knowledge, or reality. They are just fucking thoughts. And when we can see them as such, they are harmless. It’s only when we can’t see them, when they are unrecognized thought, that they do damage. (So really, it’s not the thoughts that are ever harmful, it’s the process of not recognizing them

And our feelings stem right from our thoughts. As inevitably as rain is the result of a rain cloud.

The beauty about feelings, when we can let ourselves embrace it, is that we truly don’t have to DO anything with them. If the type of thoughts we are having create a cloudy sky, and our feelings are sad or angry or scared – all we have to do is let ourselves feel it and understand that it’s just a normal response to THINKING those things. We can allow ourselves to just feel whatever is there, acknowledging the types of clouds in our sky, and giving ourselves compassion until the sky is a bit brighter. Always knowing the sky could be brighter, and will get brighter (and darker) continually as time passes. 

Enjoy the sun when it’s there, and hold yourself close when it’s not. You don’t need to run for shelter or even take out an umbrella. The rain isn’t going to hurt you. You thinking it will is the only thing that does.

Our thoughts vary and run rapid through our minds – you’ll be familiar with this if you’ve ever tried meditating. And while a quickly passing unpleasant thought can trigger an emotion in you for a second, it’s only when we truly hold onto the thoughts that come up, or continue a thought-parade of a certain thought, that they play a role with our feelings and mood. If we are present to watching those clouds (thoughts) come and go into and out of our conscious, it will be easier not to get caught up in one particular thought and therefore, feeling. Again, this process helps us recognize the thoughts as thoughts, and it allows us to focus on their transient nature. Not to bother getting too caught up, they come and go, no harm, no foul. 

Imagine you’re laying on your back on the grass, looking up at the clouds above. They sky is full of a bunch of different scattered clouds. You look at one and notice it looks like a rabbit. Then you look on to the next one, it looks like a dog. Then you look again, and again at more clouds – noticing the different shapes that appear. You like some shapes more than others; some shapes make you feel happy and some make you feel sad and some make you feel weird. But regardless of what emotion is triggered, you just keep looking up to the sky with curiosity, noticing the different clouds that drift by, and moving on to the see the next ones. 

Whereas having our head in the clouds makes it hard for us to see beyond the fluffy whiteness surrounding us, the process of cloud watching helps us see fully. 

Everyone has times (or lifetimes) when their thoughts are imperceivable as anything but reality. Those experiencing depression, anxiety, and/or panic attacks live in their clouds a lot more than most. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we simply cannot see it, and we are caught in a world of cloudy horror. I know there will always be times when this happens, but the goal is to spend more and more time gazing up (observer stance). And the only road to get there (and to be more successful in staying there when the storms come in), is to practice cloud watching while there’s some sun in the sky.

And what is the best anchor and reminder of this?

Go outside and look up.

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