At home in the clear blue sky
When I woke up this morning, there was a clear blue sky. After several days of cloudy weather, there was such a sense of relief. I felt this is how it should be. We’re back! The space and clarity in the air, the possibility to breathe and the lovely warmth of the sun shining on all brought a sense of natural joy. Nothing to do but simply be happy without a reason. Being is enough. I’m alive and well!
This weather seems to reflect an inner state where we’re really well and at home with ourselves. The great Tibetan yogi Dudjom Rinpoche, a master of masters, used to say:
Everybody has a little sky inside themselves.
Everybody has this inner space where they feel naturally at ease, clear, loving, confident and content with life how it is. This space can accommodate everyone and everything. This place I call our Sky-Heart:
A Sky-Heart is a big heart.
A heart as big as the sky.
That is a very big heart.
Bigger than is even possible ever to imagine.
Usually this spacious state of ease doesn’t seem to remain for very long. Clouds will come again and that is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, in places where the sun always shines they pray for rain. In Holland, we don’t usually need to pray for rain. It just comes, and when it comes, it tends to come more than we like it. Clouds gather and we lose that sense of spaciousness and ease, we lose the loving clarity which accommodates it all and we start to believe the clouds instead. We tend to think they’ll never go away and lose track of the sky altogether.
When the pressure is rising
In a time when I was short on money and it was hard to get work, I noticed that I found it more difficult to be pleased for people around me who had more success than I did. While normally I would rejoice in their good fortune and in general and specifically wished them well, to my own shock and dismay I noticed that I found this a lot harder. A little voice in the back of my head said: ‘Why not me?’ I was aware of my feelings, but they still came up, even though I didn’t like them. That added another layer – I realised I was a bit jealous and disliked myself for it.
Fear makes us shrink
What I noticed was that each time something happens that we don’t like or when we get hurt, it seems that we shrink a little. Our heart has the tendency to become a little bit smaller when something bad happens to us. It doesn’t like to get hurt so it wants to protect itself by contracting, by hardening and toughening up, and by building walls. Longing, desire, frustration, feeling maltreated, not getting what we think we deserve, all this can give rise more easily to petty thoughts and feelings like ‘Why him, not me?’ Although these reactions are completely natural and common among many people, they tend to put you in a bad mood and generally make you unhappier.
So not only I was short on cash, and distancing myself from more fortunate others, I was getting in a bad mood on top of it. In short, not the vibe that will get you more work, more friends, more happiness, but a downward spiral that leads to misery and depression. Even though we haven’t always been aware of it in our life, there have been many circumstances and events that have made us shrink, that have made us harder, and that have made us smaller. All that tightening has left its marks in our mind and our body. That in turn has coloured our perception and our feeling of trust, confidence and self-worth, moving us slowly further and further away from who we really are, filling up our inner space with irritation and dissatisfaction.
How can this be turned around?
Observe and accept
First, it’s important to realise that when we start to work with our minds, to deepen our awareness of what goes on, we can come to see all kinds of things, feelings, reactions in ourselves and in others that might not be immediately appealing, to say the least. We cannot expect to be big-hearted towards others if we’re not big-hearted toward ourselves. So, let’s try to keep things simple by acknowledging that you’re not responsible for the thoughts and reactions that come up in your mind. Anything can come up. You’re responsible for how you deal with that. How do you react to your reactions?
Forgive and discern
Giving space and forgiveness is a prerequisite to make everything workable and pliable. If I start to judge myself for the rising of feelings of jealousy, even though I think that I shouldn’t be jealous and I feel embarrassed about it, still I need to accept that feeling as a feeling that comes up. Realising that it’s quite a natural feeling that many people feel and to know that ‘we’re only human’ is a good first step. It’s not necessary to indulge in this feeling, or to judge it and push it away. Looking at it, slightly detached, I’m using my discernment to see that it is an unhelpful feeling that makes me smaller and creates distance between me and my fellow human beings. So, even though the feeling is there, it’s not necessary to act on it or to take it too seriously. If I just give it space it will eventually go away again.
Stretch and expand
Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy talks in her famous Ted talk about ‘power posing’ to change your brain and overcome your fear. Eskimos and Native Americans talk about being fearless and ‘standing tall’, being yourself in the face of adversity. The great Tibetan meditation master Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche used to say:
We need to make our heart and minds bigger and bigger and bigger.
After which he burst out laughing, directly showing what he meant.
Giving space, making yourself bigger takes courage, but it’s the best thing to do because it resonates with our inner core, our inner self, our sky-heart, our big mind and big heart. Stretching is a great healing practice. Stretching our body, stretching our voice, and stretching our mind, our thoughts and emotions. Through stretching we can unite ourselves with that spacious inner core of awareness that is always there, but gets clogged up, clouded by petty thoughts and emotions, especially when we’re under pressure.
Practice till effort becomes naturally effortless
So, every time you feel you become smaller, turn it around by making yourself bigger. For example, when you feel jealous, try to rejoice about someone else’s good fortune. Maybe that feels slightly unnatural at the beginning, just like stretching might hurt a bit in the beginning, but it will quickly make you feel a lot better. Once you start to notice that, then it will become easier. You discover some patches of blue between the clouds and soon you’ll remember and recognise that big endless space inside you.
everything is seen from the perspective of the sky as home,
the space where our heart is.
Relax - extend,
Trust and expand.
Enter your Sky-Heart
And rest your mind in the heart of the sky.