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March 1, 2016

A Simple Way to Learn how to Weather Life’s Storms.

Croagh Patrick, Ireland's holy mountain

Meditation teachers love to use weather analogies to help us stop identifying with our emotional states.

If we regard our current mood as “the weather,” it’s easier to acknowledge we are not angry, sad or scared. Rather, these are just feelings that we’re experiencing in this moment (maybe even for a protracted length of time).

But our feelings are not who we are.

What we feel is like the weather—a temporary condition.

We are the sky, which is a constant. It’s always there, and it’s natural state is bright and blue—lit by the (also) ever present sun.

Our moods are the black clouds, the wind, the thunder and lightning, the rain and the hail and sleet that can obscure the sun—thereby darkening the appearance of the sky.

But the weather always clears, revealing the sky’s beauty once again.

The analogy is used so much around meditation, because the practice can help us to become more observant of our emotions. As we sit in meditation, should emotive thoughts arise, we are encouraged to regard them as shifting clouds, rather than to engage with them—at least in that particular moment.

“There I go imagining a drama that might not arise.”

“Oh look, I’m getting bogged down in frustration.”

“I’m angry at this person.”

Instead of following the thoughts or feelings down a wormhole, we’re encouraged to notice and name them, and then return our attention to our breath, mantra or whatever focus we’ve chosen.

Notice the weather and know it’s just weather.

We are not our feelings, and when we acknowledge our feelings—rather than suppress or deny them—in time, they pass.

If this weather analogy is appealing to you, there’s a way to turn a practical observation of the actual weather into a brief meditation that can help us to “weather” our own feelings.

Over the next couple of weeks, there’s a live project, called Irish Weather Inside and Out, which can be undertaken by anyone, anywhere.

It’s the brainchild of two Irish women who teach mindfulness, specialising in training teachers to integrate the practices into their daily classrooms. Living in the vicinity of Ireland’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick (aka the Reek), they were inspired to create this challenge as a means of training school children to tune into their own internal weather.

It’s being tied into Seachtain na Gaeilge (a two-week festival from March 1st to 17th, when Irish people are encouraged to use their native language), and I mention this aspect only because of their interesting observation around the expression of feelings in Irish:

“As Gaeilge,” we don’t say, “I am happy/sad,” but “happiness/sadness is upon me” (“Tá áthas/brón orm”). And, outside of a few small, rural districts, it is in the schools where the Irish language is mostly spoken.

So, it is an apt exercise to encourage school children to practice being more mindful around their inner state of being.

However, it’s not limited to school children, or those living locally. It’s being facilitated online, so all are welcome to join in.

Starting today, March 1st, photographer Michael Gannon will capture the daily weather conditions on the Reek at sunrise and sunset until March 17th (St. Patrick’s Day).

Just like our own weather, visibility of this mountain can change several times a day, even disappearing completely from the surrounding landscape, only to reappear again later. And when it’s not under a cloud, it’s easy to get lost in sitting and admiring its beauty.

But we’re encouraged to not get lost in the external image, but to simply check in with it, and then use that as a prompt to check in with ourselves.

Morning and evening, log on to see how the weather is appearing on the mountain. Then—sitting with a straight back, close or lower your eyes and turn your attention inward.

How is your own weather?

How are you doing in this moment?

How does it differ from this morning or yesterday evening?

Simply notice—do not judge.

Of course, we don’t even need to use Croagh Patrick’s weather as our prompt. We can simply sit in front of any window and look out. Instead of judging the weather, simply notice it, then notice what’s going on inside.

And don’t stop after St. Patrick’s Day—keep going, indefinitely.

Remember—whatever arises—it’s only weather. It will pass. And our true essence—the blue sky—remains underneath.

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Relephant:

The Most Important Thing for Newbie Meditators to Know and Remember.

Weather the Storms: a Poem for Finding Strength.

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Author: Hilda Carroll

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Author’s own

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