Letting Thoughts Pass By Like Clouds in the Sky
The goal in this exercise is for you to become a better observer of your own thoughts and urges. If you
can reach this goal you will be less likely to get into trouble by doing things impulsively. More positively,
you’ll become less attached to negative thoughts and feelings.
We’ll begin with quiet breathing. Just take a minute now to breathe slowly and quietly, remembering to
pay attention to both your inhaling and exhaling.
Now imagine you are watching a movie playing out on a screen just in front of you. The scenes playing
out in the movie are your thoughts and emotions. But don’t get too involved with the plot. The idea here
is to watch how one scene gets replaced by another, inevitably, time after time. Just watch and listen to
your busy mind working away. I’ll give you a minute just to begin doing this…
It takes practice to observe events without becoming involved in them. So, if you find yourself getting
caught up in a scene, whether that part of the movie feels good or bad, just take a deep breath and
mentally step back. Allow yourself to watch objectively. Keep watching as your brain runs through more
and more thoughts and feelings. All these thoughts and feelings will soon pass, like clouds in the sky.
Keep practicing for another couple minutes until I call time.
You may be tempted to change a scene or direct the action of your mind. There are times this would be
useful, but not now. Right now I want you just to observe the movie. Stay neutral, watching carefully
but not taking sides.
Are you ready to try something a little more challenging than the Clouds in the Sky exercise? This one is
harder for most people but really valuable if you can do it. It’s called Practicing Non-judgment.
Let’s start again with breathing. Remember to take time to fully inhale and exhale. Once again imagine
a movie screen just in front of your eyes. This time I want you to begin by bringing into awareness
something small that often bothers you a little. Perhaps someone cutting in on you while you are driving,
or your kids arguing over the television or maybe someone in the neighborhood making loud noises.
Don’t pick something that really bothers you, though. Just something that might annoy you. .. Got it? …
OK, now let that scene play out for a little while. But here’s your goal: do not make a judgment about
what’s happening. Just as before, just watch the scene from a distance. It’s neither good nor bad. It just
is. Let yourself stay uninvolved but observant. You may notice a part of you that really wants to judge –
to say this is good and this is bad. Just take a breath when that part of you appears and tell it that you
don’t need to make any judgment right now.
Many people play scenes in their heads over and over in which they judge others as good or bad. Perhaps
an ex-lover with whom you had a nasty break up. Maybe a family member with whom you don’t get
along. Or an authority figure you feel is too controlling. If so, place the face of that person on the movie
screen. Take a few deep breaths. Now allow yourself to release that person from your negative
judgment, just for a few seconds, now. Just observe that individual, patiently, neutrally. You are the one
benefitting by doing this, by the way. Not the person on the screen. You are freeing yourself from the
trap of judging another human being.