When people use the phrase “head in the clouds,” they usually refer to a mental state that appears to be drifting rather than concentrating. For this reason, putting our heads in the clouds can be a wonderful meditation tool. Whether puffy and white or tinted with the colors of dawn and dusk or shades of gray, those vaporous sky dwellers can remind us of so many things about life and about ourselves.
For this meditation, we can find a physical place to relax and look upward, or we can look to the skies from within our imaginations. Directing our thoughts to the endless of expanse of sky that clouds inhabit, we feel our souls expand to reach beyond any seeming limitations. Following the clouds, we are free to unleash our imaginations. We may choose to merely drift along with them for a time, enjoying their distanced perspective on the world. Or we can look for messages in their fantastical shapes, or feel the joy of bounding between their immense billowy puffiness. However we interact with them, we do so from a peaceful place. Clouds drift above the hustle of the world below, knowing they belong to another realm that cannot be affected by its frenzy, reminding us that peace is always available to us. By directing our vision beyond the ordinary, clouds also remind us of the illusion of appearances. While appearing to be solid, their vapor and mist appear like cotton balls ! from below, giving little indication of the heights they reach. Sometimes they may cast shadows, leaving us in shade, but like life’s difficulties clouds change shape and move onward, revealing the shining sun, twinkling stars, and blue sky that are behind them.
When a ray of light breaks through the clouds, their dramatic filtering only makes the light more beautiful by contrast, just as we can shine more brightly in the midst of life’s challenges. When we allow clouds to offer us a welcome respite, they help us visit the realm of illusion to see the truth beyond.
Squirrel Medicine Native Americans considered all living beings as brothers and sisters that had much to teach including squirrels. These small creatures taught them to work in harmony with the cycles of nature by conserving for the winter months during times when food was plentiful. In our modern world, squirrels remind us to set aside a portion of our most precious resources as an investment in the future. Though food and money certainly fall into this category, they are only some of the ways our energy is manifested. We can conserve this most valuable asset by being aware of the choices we make and choosing only those that nurture and sustain us. This extends to the natural resources of our planet as well, using what we need wisely with the future in mind.
Saving and conservation are not acts of fear but rather affirmations of abundance yet to come. Squirrels accept life’s cycles, allowing them to face winters with the faith that spring will come again. Knowing that change is part of life, we can create a safe space, both spiritually and physically, that will support us in the present and sustain us in the future. This means not filling our space with things, or thoughts, that don’t serve us. Without hoarding more than we need, we keep ourselves in the cyclical flow of life when we donate our unwanted items to someone who can use them best. This allows for more abundance to enter our lives, because even squirrels know a life of abundance involves more than just survival.
Squirrels use their quick, nervous energy to enjoy life’s adventure. They are great communicators, and by helping each other watch for danger, they do not allow worry to drain them. Instead, they allow their curious nature to lead the way, staying alert to opportunities and learning as they play. Following the example set by our squirrel friends, we are reminded to enjoy the journey of life’s cycles as we plan and prepare for a wonderful future, taking time to learn and play along the way.
Life is the province of learning, and the wisdom we acquire throughout our lives is the reward of existence. As we traverse the winding roads that lead from birth to death, experience is our patient teacher. We exist, bound to human bodies as we are, to evolve, enrolled by the universe in earth school, an informal and individualized academy of living, being, and changing. Life’s lessons can take many forms and present us with many challenges. There are scores of mundane lessons that help us learn to navigate with grace, poise, and tolerance in this world. And there are those once-in-a-lifetime lessons that touch us so deeply that they change the course of our lives. The latter can be heartrending, and we may wander through life as unwilling students for a time. But the quality of our lives is based almost entirely on what we derive from our experiences.
Earth school provides us with an education of the heart and the soul, as well as the intellect. The scope of our instruction is dependent on our ability and readiness to accept the lesson laid out before us in the circumstances we face. When we find ourselves blindsided by life, we are free to choose to close our minds or to view the inbuilt lesson in a narrow-minded way. The notion that existence is a never-ending lesson can be dismaying at times. The courses we undertake in earth school can be painful as well as pleasurable, and as taxing as they are eventually rewarding. However, in every situation, relationship, or encounter, a range of lessons can be unearthed. When we choose to consciously take advantage of each of the lessons we are confronted with, we gradually discover that our previous ideas about love, compassion, resilience, grief, fear, trust, and generosity could have been half-formed.
Ultimately, when we acknowledge that growth is an integral part of life and that attending earth school is the responsibility of every individual, the concept of “life as lesson” no longer chafes. We can openly and joyfully look for the blessing buried in the difficulties we face without feeling that we are trapped in a roller-coaster ride of forced learning. Though we cannot always know when we are experiencing a life lesson, the wisdom we accrue will bless us with the keenest hindsight.
“On The Shortness of Life” is one of Lucius Seneca’s most famous letters. It’s valuable to read it whenever you feel the urge to succumb to social pressure and treat time as less valuable than income. Time is non-renewable, and “On The Shortness of Life” helps put this in a practical context, as relevant now as it was nearly 2,000 years ago.
Seneca says, “It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.”
The full letter is contained in the link below. For a quick 4-minute overview, you can read the bolded passages. But it’s worthwhile to read the entire piece on a slow evening. Each person identifies with different passages.
The letter is posted by Tim Ferriss, author of the bestselling book, The 4-Hour Workweek. If you’re looking for more tips on how to make the most of your life, I highly recommend picking up a copy. This book has had a MAJOR impact on my own life, and I suspect it will have a positive influence on yours as well.
Cycle Of Life:
As we walk through the world, the people we encounter appear so different from one another. We see babies, old men, pregnant women, and teenaged boys. We know couples on the verge of marriage and lonely widows. We interact with toddlers and the terminally ill. As different as each person seems, they are all living the human experience. They are just at different places in the cycle that begins with birth and ends with death. Every phase of the cycle of life has its gifts and its challenges. Each stage is temporary and ultimately gives way to a new phase. This ephemeral quality makes each phase precious, because it will never last.
One of the wonderful qualities possessed by babies and young children is that they are unaware that a cycle of life even exists. They simply are present to wherever they happen to be right now, and they don’t give much thought to the past or future. Being around them reminds us of the joy that comes from living fully in the moment. On the opposite end of life’s cycle are our elderly role models. They are a reminder that each phase of life should be treasured. Time does pass, and we all change and grow older.
Being aware of the cycle of life and our place in it makes us wiser. As we develop a true appreciation for the phase we are in, we can savor it more. A new mother going through a difficult time with her infant can more easily embrace her challenges because she knows that her child will grow up, and she will long for this time again. Difficult and challenging periods are inevitable, but – like everything that is a part of the cycle of life – they are temporary. When we are fully engaged with life, we get to savor and grow from each phase, and we are ready for the next one when it arrives. Fully embracing wherever you are in the cycle of life is the very essence to happiness.