Let Your Thoughts Drift Away Like The Clouds Do
Do you ever stop and watch the clouds flying by? Perhaps you look for recognizable shapes in the forms the clouds take like I used to love doing as a child. Or, perhaps, you stop because the clouds are particularly striking to you at that moment. One thing we cannot help but notice is that the clouds are on the move and once they are gone we can no longer look at them. We must either turn our attention to the next cloud or away from the clouds altogether, perhaps back to the matter at hand that the clouds temporarily offer a pleasant distraction from.
I had a meditation teacher suggest that we treat the thoughts in our head as if they are clouds passing by in the sky. We cannot control the thoughts that enter our mind. But we can choose whether or not to believe them or dwell on them. By treating our thoughts – whether during meditation or during our everyday activities – like clouds passing by and accepting that we have as much control over the entry of thoughts to our head as we have the clouds that enter our field of vision in the sky, we can acknowledge our thoughts and let them pass on.
Letting our thoughts pass by allows us to focus on what is real in our life. Thoughts generally turn our minds to the past and the future and we may worry about the content of those thoughts. But we cannot change or manage the content of our thoughts because they are not real. We can, however, manage what is actually going on in our lives – the activities we take part in or avoid, the vehicles we drive, the people we interact with, the items on our work and life agenda that need to get done on a daily basis.
Last night I was able to share this strategy for thought management with my five year old daughter when she found herself crying at bedtime. We had returned from her Christmas concert at school and she had done a wonderful job of singing and dancing in front of an audience of about 1000 people. She loved performing and she smiled the entire time. Later on in the evening, I suspect that the energy and excitement of the moment may have caught up with her as she got uncontrollably teary before leaving the school to come home because she hadn’t gotten a granola bar when some of the other kids did. It was a small thing and it was quickly resolved but, come bedtime, she told me that her mind kept making her think about that she’d crying in the school hallway.
I shared with her the idea that her thoughts can be like clouds in the sky. She can have a quick look at them, and then left them drift away. She told me that the memory of crying at school kept coming back and I told her this was okay. She just needed to let it drift away and think about how warm her bed was and how grateful she was for the opportunity to sing earlier.
That made her smile.
What worked for my five year old daughter can work for all of us. We can remember that our thoughts are not facts. We can acknowledge thoughts and then let them pass so we can be present in every moment. Being present enables us to appreciate what is good and resolve what requires attention. Being lost in our thoughts prevents us from doing either of those things.