Sunday, August 28, 2011


Recently I was sitting in a friend's flat, admiring their fabulous view. The panorama included miles and miles, through something like a 270 degree angle, so that you felt you were somehow part of the sky.

"Look over there," I said, seeing a curtain of grey descending through the blue. "You can see the rain falling from the clouds miles away."

"Sometimes," she said, "you get a sunny day on one side, and a rainy day on the other."

She said it was strange to sit, on some days, and experience both good and bad weather in the same room.

The clouds have a flow that it's hard to understand, just as the world of people has a flow that can't always be explained so easily. Getting along with others is a bit like watching a big sky. We can't always know why people think what they do, or where ideas and events come from. We can't judge from appearances, because we can't always know what has happened to lead people to their own thoughts, or conclusions, or behaviour.

One of my favourite books has a chapter called 'Just Watching'. It talks about how we can't stop negative sensations:

'Nonetheless, it is possible to weather it out, like a gust of wind at sea. When we "just watch" we are not numb and insensitive, we are fully alive to what is happening…. Tranquility comes not by changing the world, but from allowing the moments of emotional pain to die a natural death. They are like a shower of sparks from a fire. Most peter out in a few seconds, unless they land in something explosive. Like sparks, the negative emotions - anger, despair, fear, attachment - burn when they fall on you. If we can accept the momentary discomfort, they soon burn out. If we flare up, they can smoulder for hours.

"Good meditators don't escape times of emotional pain. However, they can give those feelings space to be there and move through."

So maybe it's like that sun and that rain. We can sit and watch both, just like in my friend's flat. We may not understand everything that's going on, but we don't have to. We can 'just watch'. It doesn't mean we are insensitive. It just means we have our eyes open.