June 29, 2015

Cultivating the Sky-Like Mind.


The sky: boundless, infinite, capable of receiving all which arises and passes through it.

Clouds, birds, planes, pollution enter this space and without discrimination, are given pass, coming and going, nature following its due course.

The mind: Boundless, infinite, capable of receiving all which arises and passes through it. Thoughts, feelings, emotions, judgments enter this space and without discrimination, are given pass, coming and going, nature following its due course.

Like so many of us, my childhood was filled with carefree, barefoot days, partaking in the childlike ritual of lying in the grass on a warm summer’s day, observing the clouds and the shapes and images my friends and I would see within them.

Although my virtual reality suit has aged, at thirty-three years old, the boy within my heart still finds a great sense of ease and peaceful abiding through observing the nature of the all-encompassing sky. Although at this point in my life my practice has shifted more from the comfort of my parents manicured lawn to the comfort of my meditation cushion, that same sense of freedom arises through observing the nature of the mind, cultivating that same spacious, sky-like receptivity.

The sky-like nature of mind is an analogy found within the Buddhist tradition, guiding and awakening us to the innate freedom available within our human minds.

When I was first introduced to the analogy I was skeptical—my mind felt far from spacious. Instead my untrained mind overflowed with attachment and aversion to the phenomena of thoughts, feelings and emotions. I felt incarcerated within a mind-space that was seemingly getting exponentially tighter and more contracted by the moment. A result of our evolution and survival, these human minds are conditioned to pursue that which they fancy and to push away that which they don’t.

And although beneficial for survival in the early evolution of our ancestors, it is these habitual tendencies of the mind to attain its likes and avoid its dislikes which conceals this spacious, sky-like quality of mind.

Meditation can feel like a futile endeavour when driven by the minds goals of attaining peace and tranquility or trying to force the mind to be quiet. As my dear teacher Jack Kornfield reminds us: “The mind is no different than the salivary glands within the mouth. The salivary glands continuously secrete saliva and the mind continuously secretes thoughts.” This is the nature of the mind and we cannot force nature to be other than it is.

No different than observing the clouds as they pass by overhead, our practice becomes the practice of being with what is.

Everything is what it is. Regardless of how badly and neurotically our minds may attempt to bend each moment to their liking, nature will always take her course. And let us not forget that these bodies and minds are nothing other than nature herself.

So our practice becomes not about stopping thought but opening humbly, without judgement to the moment unfolding in front of us, exactly as is. Cultivating the ability to hold space for the cloud like phenomena of the mind to arise from and dissolve back into the ground of awareness, we gift ourselves the ability to enable life to live through us, instead of around us. This compassionate approach to the mind gives rise to insight that all phenomena are but temporary visitors, coming and going according to their causes and conditions.

As we sit down to practice may we trust in the refuge of awareness, abiding in the carefree, childlike nature of being that observed the sky and its contents so many years ago. With practice, thoughts like clouds come and go, passing through, leaving no trace in the boundless, sky-like quality of mind.

May you find freedom within.





Author: Whit Hornsberger

Editor: Renée P

Photo: Mike Beauregard / Flickr 

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