How Crazy Weather on Mother’s Day Led to a Lesson in Choosing Positivity
Disclaimer: I have always been drawn to meditations and life lessons that were visualization-based. I love the way we can use imagery to compare a part of us with an inanimate object (for example, our brain as a bowl that collects thoughts,) or use a natural phenomenon as a metaphor for an action we can take (letting negative thoughts blow away like dandelion seeds). Crazy weather this Mother’s Day brought me yet another visualization lesson from the most important woman in my life: my mom. She has given me countless meditation ideas over the years, most of the time without even trying. She has a quiet, innate wisdom and always seems to subconsciously know exactly what to say to inspire me to grow. This time, her observations on the weather led me to contemplate and meditate on the idea that it’s not our circumstances that define us, but how we react to them.
When I was visiting my family last month for Mother’s Day, we had some very interesting weather. It was cloudy when I arrived, but then the sun came out full force and we all ran outside to soak up its happy rays. Thirty minutes later the wind blew in some serious clouds and it rained – HARD – for a solid half hour. Over the course of next two hours, the sun and clouds continued to fight each other, and finally it started raining while the sun was still shining. My mom looked out of the kitchen window and remarked, “Well, we’re either going to see a rainbow… or a tornado!” Isn’t it fascinating that the same weather conditions that can produce something as breathtakingly beautiful as a rainbow can also spawn something as destructive as a tornado? The same combination of cool fronts and warm fronts and the resulting rapid changes in air pressure can produce drastically different results, depending on whether the calm cool air can stop the storm from advancing, or whether it gets sucked into the storm, losing itself in swirling chaos. That caused me to think about how the exact same environmental factors and events can provoke extremely different responses from different people (think about how twins raised in the exact same home can have drastically different personalities), or even from the same person at different times in their life, depending on their state of mind and how they choose to react in a particular situation.
When rain clouds only partially block the sun (which happens when two fronts collide and the storm-bearing air is stopped by the sunny clear air), a beautiful rainbow can emerge. The sun shines through the rain, and the water breaks up the light waves into the full spectrum of perceivable color. Likewise, when we make sure we can still see the positive things in life, even when the storms come rushing towards us, we can create beauty from our trials. This doesn’t mean we should build a wall to try to keep the clouds away. We shouldn’t ignore the challenges we face or the fact that they will inevitably affect us; instead we should acknowledge them and choose not to lose sight of all the good we still have. Of course we’ll still get rain; we’ll still have to deal with crappy situations in life. But the sun is going to shine no matter what because that’s what it does, clouds or clear skies. So choose to seek out that space in between the clouds. Meditate on what good could come from the bad situations you find yourself in. What lessons can you learn? What new possibilities in your life can unfold because you faced this challenge and rose above it?
Not only can we ourselves grow from remembering the positive even when dealing with the negative, but we can also help encourage others, and strengthen relationships in the process. Storms do not rain on just one person. We all face similar struggles. You never know who will be kept from getting sucked into a tornado because you bring them over to see your rainbow. Who knows, you may find yourself a new friend in the process! Ever notice how when one person spots a rainbow and points it out, others come close to enjoy it with them? Even complete strangers can share the joy of a rainbow.
When a warm front and a cool front collide and the winds start to swirl around each other erratically and violently, a tornado can emerge and wreak havoc on everything in its way. The warm stormy air pushes under the cool air, causing it to rapidly speed up. The two fronts spin out of control, forging an aimless path of destruction and sorrow. The resulting tornado has no goal, no destination. Only directionless destruction until it eventually collapses. In the same way, when we allow challenges and setbacks to completely unhinge and unground us, we lose sight of our goals and our path. By choosing to focus only on the negative and getting caught up in a swirling mess of despair and depression and anger, we get blown off course, lost in the turmoil of our own minds. We are in danger of spinning out of control, aimlessly hurting both ourselves and others.
People run from tornadoes. Even storm chasers only get so close, and do so with as much protection as possible (unless, of course, they’re a tad bit crazy!). If we become too sucked into negativity and self-pity, we can lash out at others in anger or fear and drive them away. In extreme cases even the people close to us may feel like they need to protect themselves and keep a healthy distance. Like the tornado, an attitude of defeat or directionless anger accomplishes nothing positive for us and only drives others away. But even tornadoes don’t last forever.
Tornadoes end when cool, stable air disrupts their path. This air is usually a result of the thunderstorm that caused the tornado in the first place. So if you wake up one day and realize that you have been sucked into the chaos of negativity, know that you can choose to change it. Look again at what that rough day or hard week might be trying to teach you. Find something good and stable in your life – anything – and hold onto it, meditate on it, try to bring more of it into your life. Take time to slow down and refocus on your priorities and goals and what good is in front of you, and stop pushing aimlessly forward with no path or direction.
Maybe the storm is trying to get you to move with more purpose and intention in your life.
Every challenge is an opportunity for growth. In fact, the only way we grow is when we’re pushed outside of our comfort zone. We always have a choice about how we react to the challenges we face. On one hand, we could become ungrounded as we make a desperate attempt to fight or ignore change, or become depressed by the less-than-perfect situations we find ourselves in. But eventually, this leads us to spiral out of control and push others away. By either getting sucked into despair, or charging forward without first having a purpose, we accomplish nothing for ourselves. We cannot grow, we find no answers, and we might destroy relationships and goals.
On the other hand, we can choose to keep looking for the sun. We can acknowledge that yes, this job might not be perfect or this person may have hurt us, but we will not let that unhinge us. We will learn from our mistakes and those of others, and let those mistakes help us appreciate all the beauty and goodness in our lives. The sun’s light has to be broken up by the raindrops for us to see the individual colors. Maybe our status quo has to be broken up in order to shed light on the individual areas we need to work on in our lives and illuminate the beauty of those who support us.
Now nobody is perfect, so what happens if you find yourself spiraling out of control? We cannot completely eliminate the threat of tornadoes, but remember they don’t last forever. They don’t even really destroy anything until they touch down. So if you’re having trouble finding the sunlight, give yourself the time to take a step back, calm down, meditate. Don’t make rash or hasty decisions, or you’ll just accelerate those swirling clouds of despair and helplessness. Acknowledge that you don’t have complete control over your life and that’s okay. The sun can’t make rainbows by itself. It needs the rain. So does everything else on earth. Without the water that rain brings, nothing could grow. We need the challenges we face to push us to grow.
I challenge you to not only seek out stability and positivity in your own life, but to be that stable cool air for others when you can. Take a yoga class, go for a walk in the woods, have a good long chat with friends. Store up sunshine so that when the rain comes, you can make rainbows.
And then share those rainbows with others.