We think they are real, solid, and lasting when they are really only like clouds passing by in the sky.
Over time, we build deep habitual ruts called arrogance, pride, attachment, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, self-protection, greed, fear, and other unhelpful states of mind that only lead to suffering and discontentment. One thought or emotion sparks another in an endless succession of mind chatter.
Eventually, the clouds obscure the sky. We mistake our thoughts and emotions for our true identity.
Even happiness can trigger unhappiness when we want it to remain. For example, you buy a new car and are jazzed beyond belief. Then some kind soul dents your car. Where did the happiness go? We are so enslaved by our thoughts and emotions, following after them without pause.
The Clouds Are Not the Sky
None of these thoughts and emotions are the true nature of our mind, which is “…a primordial, pure, pristine awareness that is at once intelligent, cognizant, radiant, and always awake.” This innermost essence – which is unchanging and deathless – goes by different names in different traditions.
Understanding the difference between the ordinary thinking mind and the true nature of mind is the first step to freeing oneself from the prison of tumultuous emotions. Meditation is the key to settling the mind so that ultimately we can recognize our true nature when it is introduced to us by an authentic teacher.
Reflection: the Sky and the Clouds
The true nature of mind is beyond words, beyond thought, beyond description. Thus metaphors are used to point us in the right direction. The metaphor of the sky helps us to imagine the open, boundless, and unlimited quality of our original mind. At the same time, our true nature is not identical to the sky as it also boasts a radiant clear awareness.
For the reflection this week, I’ve chosen the following quotations that use the image of the sky to help us remember the difference between ordinary mind and the sky-like nature of mind.
“Always have a sky inside you.” Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche
“Our true nature could be compared to the sky, and the confusion of the ordinary mind to clouds. Some days the sky is completely obscured by clouds. When we are down on the ground, looking up, it is very difficult to believe there is anything else there but clouds. Yet we only have to fly in a plane to discover up above a limitless expanse of clear blue sky. From up there the clouds we assumed were everything seems so small and so far away down below.
We should always remember: the clouds are not the sky, and do not “belong” to it.” – from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche
Just remembering this crucial distinction can help us release troubling thoughts and emotions and bring more spaciousness, grace, and happiness into our life.
Does this metaphor inspire you? Are you spending your time embroiled in the clouds or do you allow them to pass by like clouds in the sky?
You might also like:
- Sunday Reflection: A Letter from the World of Emptiness
- Changing the World: Advice from the Dalai Lama
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