When I was a kid I remember lying in the grass and looking up at the sky. I’d watch the clouds float by and imagine each fluffy shape was any number of things, from dragons to puppy dogs.
I still find it interesting to look at cloud shapes. But now my sky gazing is mostly limited to strolls in the desert, or riding as a passenger in the car. It would be fun to be a cloud watcher while I’m stuck in traffic, but if I were to do that while navigating the highway I’d probably rear end a few cars and send myself and a couple innocent commuters to heaven ahead of schedule. It’s like Kenny Chesney’s lyrics, “everybody want to go to heaven, but nobody want to go now.” So, I’ll pay attention to where I’m driving and wait to see whether that Cumulonimbus looks like a horse or a battle ship.
However, cloud gazing has taken on a new meaning for me lately. I’ve been making it a priority to live in the present moment and appreciate the simple beauty in the world. Isn’t it ironic how we will save for months to go on a week’s long vacation to an exotic place and spend the rest of the year ignoring the beauty that is right outside our door?
But I must confess I have another reason for cloud watching. I recently read a book on how many of the questions we face can be answered by observing nature. This is nothing new. Mankind has been looking to the heavens, plants, animals, tea leaves and any number of physical manifestations to help guide us through life.
A case in point is my own insecurity as an author. I’ve known I was going to be a writer since I was 10 years old. I’ve been published in numerous magazines and won a bunch of awards, but there is always that nasty little voice that crawls from the dirtiest, dustiest part of my brain and sticks its gooey little head out of ear and tells me I’m no good. The little rat fink loves to taunt me when I’m down. She also harasses me when I’m feeling good.
I’ve mostly caught on to her shenanigans and recognize it as the Fundamental Darkness (aka as FD) that all of us share. Of course everyone’s FD will manifest in different ways. Mine mostly takes the form of a writer’s critic telling me that everything I write is schlock. It’s like an internal boogey man. However, just like the boogey man disappears when you turn on the light, mine disappears when I have more enlightened thoughts, actions and speech.
However, I was having a few doubts the other day and I asked for a sign that Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, the book Jackie and I are writing, is going to be successful. I was feeling a tad depressed because I received a couple rejections. I understand it takes time to find the right publisher, but there is always that nagging doubt that I ought to do something else with my life. Anyway, I asked for a sign of what I should do. I looked up at the clouds and I saw a little creature with two paws together, as if in prayer.
“Okay, I get it,” I said to myself. “I need to pray.” Of course I don’t need the clouds to tell me this. I know it, my senior leaders in faith know it, and most of the planet knows that prayer and meditation help us find the answers we desperately seek. But, I’m still human and need to be reminded of the obvious. So I got the message – literally – and did what I was supposed to do. But, being human, I was impatient when a crystal-clear, in-your-face, answer wasn’t forthcoming. This time I said out loud. “Listen, maybe I’m dense, but I need a very obvious sign that I’m on the right track with this book. Can you send me a sign that leaves no room for doubt?”
The next day I left to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo with Rosie, a fellow Buddhist (see the blog entry, A Rosie Outlook for more about this charming woman). We chanted and chatted. Before I left she told me that she had read my blog and enjoyed my stories. She encouraged me to keep up my writing. Of course I was elated. It’s ironic that I went there with the thought that I would encourage her, and here she was encouraging me. But, that’s how life goes sometimes.
Anyway, I left feeling like my writing was having a positive effect and that I was definitely on the right track. I asked. The universe sent an answer. And there was nothing subtle about it.
Are all my battles won? Nope. Will my FD creep back in? No doubt it will. But I have a plan. When FD returns and emerges from my ear wax, I’ll shed a little light on things and she will melt away. Ewwww. Okay, so maybe I could use a nicer image. How about this? Today, the world seems a little brighter and my heart feels a little lighter. And if you’re wondering about where you’ll find my head and spirit, just look up at the heavens. You’ll seem them both floating on cloud nine.