Perhaps it’s human nature that our moods so often track the weather outside—spiraling downward like the cold rain in the drainpipe and then lifting once again when the sun peeks through the clouds. Ah, but it isn’t always so. Sometimes we revel in the gloominess outside, finding a sort of melancholy joy in how it so perfectly supports our (and the world’s) need for rest and renewal. Unfortunately, the opposite all too often occurs. It might be a gorgeous day outside, but we feel as though we’re gazing out through dirty glasses. We sense brightness, but our mood is dark. We wish we had more spring in our step, but it feels as though our feet are stuck in mud.
Whether we’re experiencing depression, grief, or merely a persistently rough period in life, it can be all too tempting to believe that such inclement “inside weather” will be our lot forevermore. We might even commence to seeding our dark storm clouds with endless self-recrimination: We’ve “no right” to feel this way given all that we have to be grateful for. We’re “weak” for succumbing to these negative emotions. We’re not diligent enough with our spiritual practice. We’re not faithful enough. Maybe we just don’t “deserve” to experience the joy that everyone else seems to tap into with ease. Yes, this is when the storms begin to really become ominous!
One of the benefits of Zen meditation—simply sitting with whatever thoughts, sensations, and emotions happen to arise—is that it gives us plenty of practice watching the weather inside.
I’ve been pondering the gloomy weather these days during lunchtime jaunts in a nature park near the college where I work. You see, after being teased earlier in the season with a few gloriously warm and bright spring days, we’ve settled back into a spell of gray and chilly weather that seems to want to drag on forever. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pine at times for warmer and brighter days yet to come, regardless of what my Buddhist practice might say about accepting that which is! While the flora and fauna all around me accept precisely that which is with perfection I can only dream of, my “weather inside” is at times a blustery mix of fear and longing and frustration.
One of the benefits of Zen meditation—simply sitting with whatever thoughts, sensations, and emotions happen to arise—is that it gives us plenty of practice watching the weather inside. As such, we become familiar with a quality of awareness that is independent of fleeting circumstances, emotions, and yearnings. Yes, I still get lost at times within the turbulence of my own private storms, even while gazing out at an otherwise glorious day. More and more, though, I’m able to watch the weather inside with the same calm awareness as when I watch the weather outside. And whatever storms I do experience tend to be less intense and of a much shorter duration.
So, next time you’re feeling buffeted by whatever storms might be swirling inside of you, allow yourself to get in touch with that calm awareness that’s able to watch it all, experience it all, and feel it all, yet remain completely unharmed all the while. Sit and watch it play out if you are so inclined. Take a walk with it if your energy doesn’t quite allow you to sit still. Find your way to a natural place. Nature has so much to teach us about acceptance. All that dwells outside may not experience the weather inside that we humans do, but all of nature knows what it is to abide with the storms of existence.
Copyright 2023 by Mark Robert Frank