It is early springtime as I write this. March on Vancouver Island is that transition time of year when the weather seems to change frequently and drastically from one day to the next. One morning is grey and rainy with overcast skies. The next is bright and clear with a promising Spring warmth.. There are days when it is crisp and cold with windblown clouds floating overhead. And then there are others when I awake to snow flurries, hail, or fog.
Each day unfolds as it is — a West Coast springtime. I adapt to whatever is here. Some days I choose to put on an extra layer, or need to grab an umbrella or boots. On other days I dare to pull out my shorts and t-shirts, or wear sunglasses or a hat to shade the brightness. There are times when I don’t want to go out at all, and instead cozy up under a blanket with a good book while water pours from the sky. And there are times when the whole of Nature seems to be waking from its slumber and I am drawn into the garden, to the forest, or to lay upon the dry grass and feel the heat of the sun penetrating my skin.
The mind, body and heart have their ‘weathers’ as well. Depending on circumstance, belief, or the prevailing narrative of the moment, many different weathers might emerge in the mind. There are times when the mind is tired or dull; clear or full of inspiration. There are moments when the mind may be caught up with some sticky or persistent thought, leaning into the future, or lingering in the past. Judgement, regret, and planning are common conditions that arise in the vast sky of our minds and can affect how we behave, interact, or even how we feel emotionally and physically.
The body also goes through its seasons and changing weather. Fatigue, energy level, appetite, and craving are all varied states of the body. Prominent sensations like pain, tension or ease can arise for reasons we can not always explain away or justify. Yet here they are. There are days when activity or exercise comes easily and is welcomed, and other days when we feel we need more sleep and rest. Days when we crave sweet,.. or touch,.. or solitude more than others.
And the heart, or emotional body, is no different. With a kind and curious attention we can notice the changing climate of our feelings — times when sadness seems to weigh heavy in our chest; other moments when there is lightness or joy; irritation or anxiety. We can notice how these winds of emotion reverberate through our entire being – sensation, thought, mood…
Just like the changing weathers of springtime, I may like or dislike certain weathers of my body, mind or heart more than others. And yet cursing the rain does not change the rain. We must rather learn to accept what is here and to adapt ourselves, and our behavior, to the current climate. Just as I can choose to don a jacket or boots, so I can choose kindness, compassion, activity, or distraction as I may need in this moment. There will be times when I may choose a nap,.. or a hug,.. or a hand on the chest in self compassion. There are other times when I may choose to let the rains of sadness pour over me; to feel the weight of grief, and allow the puddles of tears to gather. And still other moments when I may bask in the radiance of my gratitude, and feel the warmth of connection and Love.
I remember waking Ethan, my 11 year old son, one morning last week for our regular family yoga and meditation period before breakfast. His usual chipper disposition was replaced with a pulling of covers over his head and the words, “I don’t want to do yoga. It’s stupid and boring”. I asked what was going on for him and he said, “nothing!” and turned over in bed. Eventually he came around and stomped down the stairs — 10 minutes late — a grimaced pout upon his face. He complained a lot during that 25 minute practice, moving through the poses with haphazard effort, and taking every seeming opportunity to bug his sister, or blurt out some negativity. We finished the asana practice and moved into meditation. He begrudgingly closed his eyes and I guided a practice on the weathers of the mind, body and heart. In the space of those 10 minutes I encouraged him to notice what was present and unfolding in his inner environment, and to try to meet it with kindness and acceptance. He may like it or not like it, but here it is. How can he adjust to this weather?
After the practice was done Ethan came up to me, sat upon my lap and gave me a hug. “It’s just that I really want that costume”, he said.… Rewind to the previous afternoon when Ethan had been looking online for a Star Wars storm trooper costume to wear for Halloween (his favourite holiday). My wife and I had said it was too expensive, and too early to think about Halloween costumes, and that was it — for my wife and I at least. My 11 year old had internalized the injustice of our response and had been ruminating about the costume and his longing all through the night and into the morning. He awoke with a weather of anger, frustration and blame seething in the sky of his mind and heart. In the space of acceptance he managed to nurture through his practice he noticed what this feeling was about and, although he still wanted the costume very much, his relationship to this longing changed…
None of us can choose what kind of weather may unfold on any given day, and sometimes we can not simply choose our mood, or level of energy, or state of mind. Our choice and freedom arise from our ability to respond to what is here—outside or inside — and to adapt our behavior to what this body, mind or heart might need. While this wise effort may not alter the brewing storm, it certainly can change our relationship to it, and our ability to see more clearly. It is within the spaciousness of this insight that we can better see the infinite blue sky beyond the darkened clouds, and to feel the everpresent radiance and warmth of the sun within our deepest being.