Mindful Metaphors Episode 1

Hello and welcome to my first post in what I am calling the Mindful Metaphors blog series.  Through these blog posts I hope to give you, the reader, a better understanding of what mindfulness is, how it can be applied to your life situation, and an easy to remember exercise to help you live a more mindful and fulfilling life.  So let’s get started.

There are many definitions of mindfulness.  Often these definitions have a variety of components such as being in the present moment, acceptance, being an observer, and not attaching to your thoughts.  But to really understand and experience mindfulness, I believe that metaphors are the most powerful way that we can grasp the concept.  As an Acceptance and Commitment Therapist (ACT) I use lots of metaphors to help people develop mindfulness and practice being mindful in their lives.  Each blog post I will present a different metaphor that will tap into a key component of mindfulness.  This episode we will start with a classic: Clouds in the Sky.

It is often the case that when people are in nature they feel a greater sense of peace and connection.  It is no surprise then that many of these metaphors come from the natural world.  As I see it, clouds are a wonderful way of visualizing much of our internal experience.  It could be our thoughts, emotions, feelings, or bodily sensations.  All of these are temporary and ever changing, similar to a cloud in the sky.  So without further ado, here is the metaphor as an easy to do exercise.  Make sure you are sitting in a comfortable spot and you are relaxed:

Imagine you are sitting on a large open field of grass or lying down on the grass.  It is a peaceful day and the sun is shining.  Get into the scene and make yourself comfortable on the grass.  You notice above you there are several clouds floating in the sky.  You watch the clouds for a few minutes as they slowly float through the sky.  Now, you notice you have a special power.  Whatever arises within you, a thought, an emotion, a feeling, a story, a sensation, you can now take that thought or feeling and float it outside of yourself and place it on the cloud in the sky.  You watch as the thought or feeling changes, morphs in the sky, and then eventually floats away with the cloud.  Whenever another thought or feeling arises, you continue to place it on a cloud and watch it slowly float away.  Continue to practice this for a few minutes.  Eventually, there may just be one solid stream flow of thoughts, feelings, emotions, etc. out from your mind and into the sky as clouds.  Continue to let your thoughts and feelings float outside of you as clouds into the sky.  After a few minutes, and when you feel ready, come back to the present moment.

Great!  How was that for you?  Let’s talk a little bit about what is going on in this metaphor.  First, it is important to note that the point of the metaphor is not to “get rid of” your thoughts or feelings.  The idea is to see them clearly as they are and notice that they do not last forever and do not define you as a person.  Second, clouds are fluffy and gentle and this is the goal of how to treat your thoughts and emotions – with gentleness and care.  Lastly, thoughts and feelings change and morph like clouds and we can just sit and observe them as they are.  It is a powerful and simple metaphor and I hope you found it helpful in practicing mindfulness.

I hope you enjoyed this first episode of Mindful Metaphors.  I would love to hear what you thought of this metaphor.  Was it helpful to see thoughts and feelings in this way?  Want more metaphors?  Feel free to email me and I will see you in the next episode.

Ellis Edmunds, Psy.D.

Therapy for Anxiety and Mindfulness Training in Oakland, CA.

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