The clouds that wander through the sky have no roots, no home,
Nor do the distinctive thoughts floating through the mind.
Once the Self-mind is seen, Discrimination stops.
From: Teachings of the Buddha
Edited by: Jack Kornfield
“Give me my truck back, Leela!”
“No. I was playing with it first.”
It is 7:05 AM. I am on the verge of my first emergency of the day. I slow down stuffing ziplock bags to listen more closely.
“Give it back. NOW!”
“When I’m done!”
“Give it, or,”
“Or, I will throw my train at you!”
“Mooooooom!” shrieks my daughter at the boy half her age.
I drop the handful of grapes and rush to referee the pending pre-K crime. My footsteps are heavy but fast. As I whiz past bedrooms, I prepare a lecture for my 8 year-old about just walking away. Stepping over my younger son’s day-old socks, my anger switches to him. I ready a reminder to “use your words, not your hands.”
When I reach the end of the hallway, I am angry and battle-ready. I take a deep breath to myself to hurl myself into action.
But as I step to the door frame, I remember the “blue sky visualization.”
I stop. I breathe more slowly.
I lift my gaze and let my imagination transport me to what could be found above my roof.
I read about the blue sky visualization technique just a few days prior. I cannot recall exactly where I had read it. I was searching for tips on how to handle parenting chaos differently, after having an epic meltdown myself in reaction to one by my boys.
Earlier, while playing on the sidelines during his sister’s soccer practice, Sachin had kicked brother Raja’s ball without permission. Chaos and retaliation ensued – over a kicked soccer ball. Seriously.
“I’m going to get you!”
“Ha ha!” Sachin mocked in his squeaky voice before bolting.
I chased behind Raja as he ran after Sachin. Parents watched and probably laughed. When I finally caught with the slower one, I carried a kicking and screaming Sachin to my car while Raja followed. I proceeded to lecture (or, ahem, yell) at them until sister’s practice ended. So when I read about blue sky, it called to me as a way to transform everyday, defeating life moments into better ones.
Maybe like you, the daily struggle of getting my three kids to school on time, to managing their meltdowns, to balancing new work deadlines defeat me…many times a day.
Generally, I blamed my own poor parenting skills for my children’s bad behavior. The train tussle was no different.
Then I found blue sky.
If you have flown on an airplane on a snowy or rainy afternoon, you have experienced blue sky first hand. Boarding a flight, the world feels gloomy, even wet. Maybe a sense of heaviness as you make your way to your seat. Once settled on the plane, you try to make yourself comfortable, anticipating a take off in the rain. The plane endlessly hurtles down the runway, lifts off, and, as you cut through the Nimbus clouds, grey engulfs the plane. You experience turbulence and some fear. Then, you break through the turmoil.
On the other side: blue sky and uninhibited views. Your world is changed by climbing to a higher altitude.
This is an analogy for life.
Every day, we encounter turbulence. It comes from spouses, co-workers, children, or even traffic on the freeway. To address this, we can use our mind to find the stillness within us. By changing our thoughts, we can change how we experience things. The blue sky technique helps using visualization.
I have been practicing the blue sky technique whenever I can – I do so while on a walk, looking out my window, and even waiting for the stoplight to change. With practice, it becomes easier to use in a crisis.
Here’s how to begin:
If you can, look up at the sky. Shifting your eyes is the first step to changing your experience – you raise your consciousness. According to the site Ananda, “by lifting the gaze…you help to move the mind toward greater concentration and upliftment. The eyes will follow your consciousness.” You will notice the stillness, vastness, and beauty of the blue sky above you. Sit and breath in this experience for 3-5 minutes. Eckart Tolle does this to deal with stress.
Now, keep your eyes open. Notice how the clouds pass while the blue sky remains steady. Feel bringing that sense of the blue sky inside your heart.
Practice on sunny days, cloudy days, and days in between. Create a picture in your mind of what your blue sky looks like. Make this a feeling exercise to train your mind and body to associate the image with calmness. Practice recalling this image whenever you can. Even just a five second glance up before walking into the grocery store will reinforce neural and physical connections with the blue sky.
My children are still fighting.
“Leela, give it back to me in ONE minute or else!”
“No! I will give it to you in FIVE minutes!”
At their doorstep, as the conflict escalated, I stand still. I distance myself from their fight by a few steps. I lift my gaze to where the bare wall meets the ceiling. I breathe deeply several times and connect with my personal memory of the blue sky.
Within seconds, I feel myself changing. I feel expansive and still. I am the blue sky. My two screaming, wonderful children are floating past me.
“I’m going to break your magic wand!”
“If you do, I’ll break your truck!”
I hear but ignore the temptation to get involved. I stay focused on climbing higher with my breath. This is only temporary.
I try to understand what is underneath my agitation:
Why are they doing this again? The lunches are waiting for me. Oh shoot! I need to get their soccer things today. Why do I have to tell them the same thing over and over? What am I doing wrong?
These are the clouds I put in my own sky. By acknowledging these notions, I see this conflict is not about me. I take my deepest breath yet and feel the weight lift from my hunched shoulders and tight heart space. I feel lighter about the situation. I crack a slight smile, feeling proud of myself for taking this moment.
Now I am ready to jump into action.
“Hey, what’s going on, you guys?” I cooly ask, walking into the room slowly.
My son starts crying. My daughter yells. I ease the truck from my son’s hand. The fight ends. I feel like I handle the episode with calm and understanding.
Now disarmed, it is as if nothing had happened. My son and daughter skip ahead of me to the kitchen, hungry from their conflict.
I follow my four year-old as he enters the kitchen. He stops suddenly. He sees breakfast on the table and bursts out– “cereal again?!” He falls flat on to the floor, kicking, and screaming.
I catch myself. Just more clouds. I step over his flailing body and turn my gaze towards the window above my kitchen sink.