At yoga this summer we practiced outside as many days as we could. While doing copse pose we were able to look up at the passing clouds. When was the last time you laid on the ground cloud gazing? I don’t like to lay on the ground anymore because of bugs, when you’re young you don’t think about bugs you just lay on the ground and enjoy the view. You dream, you become one with the sky, you see dragons, and wild horses running, the scene changes every few minutes, a frog, an antelope. It had been years since I watched all those wonderful shapes and faces passing by.
Why don’t we take the time to lay on the ground and look at clouds, of course some of us can’t get back up once we’re down, but we can cloud gaze standing, and there are yoga mats or blankets or lounge chairs, but actually being on the ground and looking up has a lot to teach us. One, we become one with ground, sailing on a space ship called the earth, grounded, rooted, a part of creation. And it seems that yoga and Qigong were meant to be practiced outside, with bare feet connected to the ground, because so many of the moves and poses are taken right from nature. There is this great dance of Qigong called the 'Da Wu" - you can find it on YouTube. It is really beautiful and and as we practice the movements the crane comes to life, the flower reaches up opening to heaven. Careful observation of nature has so much to teach us, and the number one thing is being alive and present to the moment, not hurrying by and hardly seeing things, but looking deeply and intentionally.
I read that before the 1800s clouds were called ‘essences.’ ‘The word 'essences’ gives those white puffy things floating by a mystical quality. But modern science liked to take the mystery out of things and we can certainly understand that because there was a lot of superstition that caused a lot of harm. My small Peterson First Guides: Clouds and Weather by John A. Day and Vincent J. Schaefer says that a young man named Luke Howard (1773-1864) was sent to school to learn Latin and Greek but instead of memorizing amo, amas, amat….., he watched the clouds. When he grew up, he became a pharmacist but he still was interested in the sky so he joined a scientific society in London and named the clouds. “Howard noted that there are three basic shapes of clouds: 1) Heaps of separated cloud masses with flat bottoms and cauliflower tops which he named cumulus (heap) 2) layers of cloud much wider than they are thick, like a blanket or mattress, which he named stratus (layer) and 3) wispy curls, like a child’s hair which he called cirrus (curl).” Isn’t that fascinating that those names we’re so familiar came from one man’s observations in the early 1800s!
My husband has a wall poster of clouds so that we can find out what type of cloud we’re looking at, it is fun to know the names of things. Sometimes when we know things we get into this mindset that ‘I am right and you are wrong because I have this information.’ We can talk forever about right and wrong religious belief. But I wonder if what we’re really saying to each other is ‘God loves me and not you because I believe this way, or know that fact.’ That is not a happy way to live, or the way of love. Information and classification is necessary in some disciplines, but it seems to me that life in the Spirit is more about oneness than about differentiation.
Cloud gazing invites us to look up and let go of what's holding us down, the dualism that tears us apart, the constant striving to be better than someone else that wear us down or out, the small details that seem to be so important - things we fight over, things we kill over, things we are fearful of , or angry about. We can lay on the ground, or stand - stop, hold still and look up. Then we get a real perspective of what is important.