The Weather Within

feelings and moods san francisco 

One of my favorite teachers in grad school started each class with an exercise where she asked us to notice the weather outside- be it sunny, blustery, or overcast. She then guided us in shifting our focus to our internal landscape by asking us what the weather was like inside. She helped us get in touch with and track our inner experience. Did it feel calm? Foggy? Was there a storm brewing?

Each time the class met, I noticed something different- some days, I felt warm and bright, while other days, I felt more heavy and ominous. Staying with my experience in the moment, I would notice more and more- subtle currents, textures of temperature I hadn't been aware of before, sharp turns from one forecast to another, more and more layers and nuance.

What I took from this was that just as our external environment changes and evolves, our personal process is always dynamic and fluid.

Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, writes, "You are the sky. Everything else- it's just the weather".

In this way, we are bigger than our thoughts and feelings. We have moods, but we are not those moods at our core, even though it may feel that way sometimes.

It doesn't mean we ignore the weather. Just as on a rainy day, we may equip ourselves with a raincoat, water-resistant boots, or an umbrella, we can also make accommodations for ourselves on days that we're feeling emotionally stormy or soggy. For example, bringing around a comforting object, such as a smooth stone or an inspiring quote we jotted down on a napkin, wearing soft socks or a favorite scarf, and toting a pouch of tissues could be ways that we care for ourselves in the event of showers.

Sometimes weather changes come out of nowhere. Despite any discernible warning signs, sometimes a downpour catches us completely off guard. Or, the sun finally breaks through weeks of gray skies.

Weather- outer or inner- is not always predictable or convenient. It ebbs and flows, rains and shines. Movement is natural; change is inevitable. Feelings drift away and return. We can't push weather away, nor can we will it to stay. We can be in the present moment and track our experience.

Surrendering to what we cannot change can help decrease our suffering.

Whatever the weather, becoming a keen observer can help us show up for ourselves in important ways.

The goal is not to remove or prevent certain types of weather or feelings. It's to acknowledge those experiences and set ourselves up so that we can brave the storm.

Bringing attention to the subtle cues your body, brain, or heart sends is one way to stay present for yourself and gain a greater sense of what you are needing at any given time. What ways do you check in with yourself? What is the weather like inside for you right now?