Very occasionally I experience episodes of acute anxiety.
I have developed some really helpful strategies which help me heal and recover. During a particularly challenging emotional period in my life this year, I discovered a new approach to soothing my mental wellbeing which had a remarkable healing effect on me. Clouds.
I was not having a good day, so I went for a walk in my local park to get some exercise, surround myself in nature and watch the birds swoop, dance and paddle about on the lake (this is the kind of stuff I envelop myself in when I am feeling really stressed and/or worried).
So there I was, sitting on a bench, looking at the birds on the lake do their thing. A gull had caught a small fish and was paddling away from his gull mates who were eagerly trying to catch up, closely eyeing the fish poking out of his mouth in hopes that he might drop it in the lake (he eventually did, but none of the gulls went after it – the lake won!). It was a nice afternoon, the air was calm and mild, the sun was peeking through numerous gaps in the big, white and fluffy clouds. It was then I remembered how I loved looking up at clouds when I was a kid.
I lay down on the bench (my head resting on my rolled up jacket), put my shades on and stared up at the sky.
I stepped my awareness into the beautiful world suspended above me. There was so much to see and I was transfixed. Layers of cloud giving depth of field to an otherwise two-dimensional blue sky. Clouds moving effortlessly and continuously into shapes, faces, bodies – recognisable images held momentarily in the endless sky, sparking deep memories inside my brain, before rolling around to create a new fleeting shape, and then another, and another. Birds flying in multiple directions across my field of vision – some close, some so far away I imagine how far up they must be and what it must be like to be that bird looking down on our little patch of earth. The scene always changing; new stories forming and melting away; the peace and power of the air, the deafening silence broken by my imagination making the sound of winds high up above pushing clouds into new/recycled configurations.
I lost track of how long I lay there for but by the end of it I felt a deep and profound sense of calm. The anxious adrenaline-fuelled fizz in my body and solar plexus had subsided. I felt like me again.
I gathered myself up and walked back home, feeling more grounded than I had in the previous few days. The irony of feeling grounded whilst looking up into the groundless invisible distance of sky and space is not lost on me.
The next day I returned to the same park bench after I finished work; hoping for a similar experience but worried (!) that it wouldn’t be the same or as good the second time (things never are). It was different, of course, but still very healing and restorative, still beautifully magical, and still one of the best shows on earth – with Nature herself in the starring role.
Cloud watching in this way is obviously dependent on the weather. If the conditions are right and you’re having a bad day – try looking up at the clouds. They might help you.