Cultivating your ability to observe things is a crucial piece of reining in your attention. So today, I am going to teach you my favorite easy meditation. I want you to build your ability to observe by watching something that is a lot more tangible and a lot less fraught than thoughts. I want you to try cloud-watching.
Listen To The Podcast Here:
Placing Distance Between Yourself and Your Thoughts
Cloud-watching, ‘Learning how to watch’ sounds like something that doesn’t need to be taught. After all, we’re watching things all the time, whether that’s our favorite show that’s streaming, or TikTok, or the 24 hour news station. What’s such a big deal about watching, Kate?
Well in order to observe something, you have to be in a receptive state. Your mind has to be quiet. And it creates the perfect conditions for witnessing without attachment or judgment.
This is what you’re really learning to do when you meditate—to put some distance between yourself and your thoughts. But because your thoughts are inside your head, it’s kinda hard to figure out how to perceive that distance.
Typically, at any given moment, your thoughts are going a mile a minute and they will drag your attention around with them. And you will get swept in the experience of identifying with your thoughts. Which is a perfect recipe for feeling “all over the place.”
Instead of identifying with your thoughts, you want to cultivate the ability to be a witness to them—to observe your thoughts and not react to them. But I know that meditating is a big ask. Especially when it feels like your brain is all over the place.
This is an exercise I included in my book Stress Less so I’m going to read here what I wrote there:
Clouds are nearly always present, yet they are always changing—just like your thoughts. Cloud-watching then can be a great way to develop some objectivity on the nature of your thoughts.
Spend five minutes watching the sky—notice what the cloud shapes remind you of, see if you can detect movement or changes in appearance.
Just as a massive bank of gray clouds will inevitably clear into blue sky, or a cloud shaped like a rabbit will transform into an ice cream cone, your current thought pattern will also rearrange into something new.
Cloud-watching is something you can do with someone else, too, which is a really cool mental space to inhabit with someone else. Go out and lie on the grass somewhere and look up, and just share what you see. Or you can do it looking out your window, or even in the car (if you’re both passengers, of course). 5 minutes. Just watching. Just sitting in awareness. Just putting a force field around your attention and giving your attention a resting point.
If you just don’t have a good view of the sky, you can also do this with a candle flame. Or you can watch birds. Or watch your kids play with Duplo blocks. Or whatever thing is happening right in front of your eyes that maybe you haven’t paid attention to in a long time, or maybe ever.
Daily Tiny Assignment:
That’s your tiny assignment: Go do it now. Now is always the best time to try something that’s going to help you feel better. Another good time is maybe in the gap between work and dinner. We’re headed into the weekend, and here in the Northern hemisphere at least it’s summer. There should be some pretty great clouds out there.