The Clouds

July 23, 2012 § 19 Comments

When I began a meditation practice years ago, I struggled to clear my mind of the random thoughts that kept rattling around in my head.   When do I have to leave for that appointment?  Why haven’t I made travel plans to see my daughter?  Did I buy the wrong kind of coffee pot?  Thoughts banging into thoughts.  The more I tried to shut them out, the more they came crashing in.

In time I came to understand that resistance was a mistake.  I began to let the thoughts come- and then go- like clouds passing across the sky.  This understanding changed meditation for me.  The thoughts still came, of course.  But I ceased resistance.  I let them come; I let them go.  And soon my mind cleared.

But acceptance is not just a tool for meditation.  Often we find ourselves beset with grief, anger, regret, or other negative thoughts.  If we try to push those thoughts out of our head, we usually fail.  Worse yet, our failure to evict the negative thoughts just makes us feel weak and more unworthy.

When negativity wraps its arms around me, I try to treat those feelings like the random thoughts that interrupt my meditation.  I do not try to think myself out of the darkness; I accept it.  And my non-resistance seems the surest way to hasten its departure.  It is as though those terrible bone-crushing feelings somehow feed on my resistance.  Denied their sustenance, they slink away.  Not right away, but surely and soon.

We often equate resistance with strength and acceptance with weakness.  This is a mistake.  It takes more strength to calmly accept what clutches at your soul than it does to thrash away in resistance.

Let them come, let them go.

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§ 19 Responses to The Clouds

  • bipolarmuse says:

    Perfect advice here. I have learned the same…and it has been an integral part of my therapy and “maintenance” of my mood disorders. Non-judgmental acceptance of the thoughts, then I redirect to the positives. Sometimes the thoughts come back around, but they tend to leave quickly and have a less negative affect on my mood. ♥

  • MindMindful says:

    That’s it! The central truth when working with our silly minds. Not really possible to teach it; we have to go get it ourselves — & then, everything is changed. Yea for you:)

  • The less you try, the more it finds you. It is such a foreign concept, but somehow it works. thanks for the post and reminder Tom.
    Jonathan

  • dadirri7 says:

    you are right thomas, and so beautifully put, the negativity seems to fade as we let it be 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing these thoughts. When I was a Christian, for years, I had a daily prayer practice, and I found myself relating strongly with your experiences of meditation and thought resistance to my own during prayer back when. I eventually learned to allow any thought that wanted in to simply walk straight through my mind during those hours spent in prayer. I even began to keep a pen and notepad handy to write thoughts down as they passed through. Counter-intuitively, allowing them space to exist sped their departure and freed my mind to continue on in prayer.

    To use a work-place term, this was a valuable skill that easily transferred to meditation, but it was only the beginning, as I am now learning, of the practice of acceptance. I connected deeply to the middle of this post where you touch on accepting the darkness inside, rather than resisting it.

    This is something I realize I’ve been increasingly guided toward over the last 5 years but only began to do it with a attentive awareness in the last few months. I have never known anything more transformative as simply allowing all that is to be exactly what it is and nothing more without making good/bad judgements. I am learning, when I am angry–I witness my anger, accept it, surround it in love rather than resistance, and it dissipates. Same can be said with sadness, with jealously, with insecurity, fear, what have you. When I embrace these things as a loving witness with the intention to allow them to stay as long as they like, they soon dissolve leaving a quiet stillness in their wake.

    I’m new to this–but I feel a slow and steady transformation taking place from the inside out as a result of it, and I am so thankful that you have shared some of your experience of it here.

    I have enjoyed you blog and will keep an eye out for future posts.

    Anna

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Anna, so much of what you say echoes my experience. Acceptance is so powerful, so wondrous. I love your phrase, “leaving a quiet stillness in their wake.”

      Thanks.

      Good to be connected.

      Tom

  • I love the ‘thought-cloud’ metaphor, I was actually going to do a post on that myself!

    Wonderful post, acceptance is so powerful

    • Thomas Ross says:

      I used to think resistance was strong, acceptance weak. Just another youthful mistake. I also love the image of the clouds- drifting, ephemeral.

      Thanks for the read and the reply.

      Tom

  • Susan Cooper/findingourwaynow.com says:

    I do understand this. I think age and time help get us to that place. When we’re younger we believe we can control everything until something catastrophic happens and we find ourselves learning that isn’t so. Nevertheless it is something to remember and strive to accept.

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Susan, I could never have written these things when younger- too busy in my head, too many gaining ideas, too worried about what others thought. Acceptance wasn’t in my vocabulary then. Now it’s the strongest tool in my bag.

      Thanks for another thoughtful read and reply.

      Tom

  • Robyn Lee says:

    Tom – ‘clouds’ are a wonderful metaphor here. Resistance is such a huge element in our human condition. As much as I understand the concept of releasing resistance, there is always that instinct to push against that which feels uncomfortable or does not agree with our vision of how things should be. I will try to remember the clouds now though…. I think the vision of clouds will be helpful. Great post!! Best to you~R

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Robyn, in your own writing I see you open yourself to pain and struggle in a way that resonates with my message here. So I especially appreciate your reply and your regard for this work.

      Thank you.

      Tom

  • This is a wonderful post, Thomas. In recent years, I have truly come to learn that it takes awesome strength to NOT deny the things that “haunt” you and simply let your emotions deal with those things as they must – cry, scream, spend an extra 20 minutes working out – but keeping things at bay isn’t always the best way to heal. Thank you for reminding us that it takes courage to face the clouds with as much acceptance as the sunshine. Have a wonderful week!

    • Thomas Ross says:

      Laura, thanks for this very thoughtful reply. Your blog is a great amalgam of practical fitness advice with thoughtful meditations on ideas like the meaning of “strength.” Glad we’re now connected.

      Tom

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