I’ve finally done it. I’ve missed my deadline for posting to The Mindful PhD for the first time. I was in Savannah, Georgia, all week for the SoTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) Commons Conference connecting with dear colleagues and friends and meeting new ones. If I’d treated the conference like previous ones, I’d have enjoyed plenty of downtime in my hotel room, time for quiet, grading, writing, and such. However, once I got there, I decided to fully be there, applying what I’m learning through mindfulness to my conference experience. As a result, my waking hours were filled with big talk and just a little small talk, walks beneath the Spanish moss and by the river, and sitting in the sunlight with old friends. Sure, I came home to plenty of grading and this missed deadline, but that’s okay.
On my trip down to Savannah, I looked out the window most of the time. The clouds were beautiful: at one moment thick and puffy and granular, at the next flat and solitary and wispy. I’ve written before about the metaphor of the snow globe and how it works best for me, but a more common metaphor is clouds. Instead of imagining our thoughts like the snowflakes swirling around us and then settling, our thoughts are clouds–sometimes thunderheads, other times tiny wisps, but always coming and going, drifting into and (most importantly) out of our experiences.
Below is a practice based on this cloud metaphor. For a guided practice, click here (15 minutes).
“Sit comfortably where you will not be disturbed, your spine relaxed and upright. Close your eyes and take a few moments to tune inside.
Simply notice any activity arising in your mind – it could be thoughts or memories, distractions or daydreams. Observe without judging this procession of thoughts, images, or memories going through your mind. There is nothing you need to do with these thoughts except bring your attention to them; except watch them. If emotions or physical sensations arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention gently back to witnessing the mental flow.
Think of the mental flow as being like clouds in the sky: just passing through your mind like the clouds pass across the sky. As the big blue of the sky is always there behind the clouds; notice how the part of you that is able just to watch your thoughts is always there behind the mental impressions.” (Watch Your Thoughts Like Clouds in the Sky)