I have often wondered why predicting and then talking about the weather takes up so much of our media attention and often find myself slightly to very bothered by the time it takes up. However, more and more, I am using this phenomenon as a teaching. It is such a powerful reminder, over and over, of how attached we can be.
Will it snow? (We want to know what’s going to happen.) Why didn’t it snow as much as they said? (We want to know why what we expected did not happen.) It’s freezing/raining/hot/windy. (We react to what is happening.) I don’t like or I do like that it is freezing/raining/hot/cool. (We qualify whatever is happening with a positive or negative.)
Mindfulness, which is, simply put, directing all of your attention to one “object,” has been shown to help reduce anxiety, decrease depression, and increase a sense of connection to oneself and others. For many, the idea of sitting and meditating daily is not appealing or not practical. As a result, I am always searching for ways to practice mindfulness in other ways. In this case, the “object” could be the weather or even, more simply, the temperature.
For example, every time you step outside, you can take ten seconds to just notice how the temperature feels. Is it pleasant? Unpleasant? Neutral? If you are cold when you start walking or when you get into your car, pay attention to your hands or feet and notice the shifting sensation – when do they start to feel better/warmer? If it is snowing, what does the snow feel like on your face? Again, we are not searching for feeling a certain way – more noticing what is true in that moment. Does the snow feel cold? Stingy? Fun? Awful?
Breathing and noticing these sensations can bring new revelations. I was recently walking on a very icy day and feeling a lot of fear of falling. I slipped several times. At first I just was enveloped in fear and was not just noticing. When I remembered to shift into mindfulness I noticed my tension and breathed. The next time I slipped, instead of clenching up, I breathed, and I was able to notice a new thought – “I didn’t fall.” Then I was able to keep breathing and noticing that I was not falling. I shifted my thoughts from “I’m afraid of falling” to “Every time I slipped, I was able to regain my balance and not fall.” I felt much more relaxed and less in conflict with the ice.
Noticing the weather, which is always there, can be an amazing “object” for meditation. Although I am not sure if we ever will be 100% in the present, the flashes of being fully awake and present to what is happening right now are possible. These flashes can be exhilarating or overwhelming, pleasant or scary. From the pleasure of being totally alive to the sensation of walking in newly fallen snow, to the discomfort of being splashed by slushy puddles, to the poignant intensity of looking at a beautiful white birch tree against a winter blue sky, we have moment after moment of the possibility of being with what is – being in the present. Rather than bemoaning that we cannot be 100% present, I try to remember is to notice when I am present. Drink that in. Celebrate those moments of enlightenment. Notice that sometimes they can extend from moments to minutes to hours. Notice also that when these moments are absent, they are simply one breath away from being possible again. May today’s weather, whatever it is, bring you opportunities for noticing and being gentle with whatever your experience is.