Earlier today I was reflecting on taking an internal weather report and the refrain of a 90’s rap song kept going through my head, “You better check yo’self before your wreck yo’self.” Given the rest of the lyrics in his song, I don’t think Ice Cube was necessarily referring to mindfulness. But if he was, I think he might have been onto something that is key to living mindfully: paying attention to what’s going on inside right now so as not to exacerbate our suffering.
What’s the weather inside of you like right now? Are you a turbulent ball of anger and frustration, chest and face heating up with contraction and short breaths? Are you light and airy, floating on a cloud of joy and excitement bubbling up as you approach some much anticipated event? Or are you feeling kind of heavy, dull and sluggish, trudging your way through this blog as a distraction from the boring, never-ending pile of work on your desk?
We’ve probably all had our own experiences of each of these internal weather patterns, and in all likelihood, we’ve already had a handful of different weather patterns today. Getting up and feeling a bit dazed or sleepy, feeling alert and ambitious after that first cup of coffee, feeling the sting of embarrassment and a stab of fear upon hitting “Reply All” instead of “Reply,” or feeling the lightness and calm of taking a quiet walk during your lunch hour.
The practice of mindfulness helps us to notice the weather as it is happening inside of us and once we notice it, we can choose a compassionate and skillful way to respond to whatever tempest, frost, or spring dew we are experiencing. You know, like Ice Cube suggests, checking ourselves before we wreck ourselves. Because without an awareness of what’s going on inside, it can be difficult to prevent the volcano from erupting and destroying everything in sight.
If we notice the tightness of a clenched jaw and a stomach tying itself into knots, we can look a bit deeper to uncover what may be the cause of our tightening. Knowing ourselves, we can then take better care of ourselves. Maybe we can pause for a few deep breaths, or open the mouth to stretch out the jaw. Or perhaps we could even remove ourselves from the situation that is causing such distress—if only for a few moments to regain some composure. This way instead of acting out of our clenched jaw, tight stomach, red-faced self, we can come back to a more centered and calmer place to address the situation at hand.
When I practice sitting meditation, I typically fluctuate between any number of weather patterns during my time on the cushion. Upon noticing the shift in my internal barometric pressure, I gently bring my awareness back to the feeling of the breath, finding a place of calm in the storm. It’s this repeated practice of checking the weather in the safety and comfort of my home that prepares me for life off the cushion. Having practiced it a zillion times before, I am comfortable checking myself throughout the day. And having noticed the multitude of shifting weather patterns in my daily sits, I am comfortable and less fearful when a big storm shows up on the horizon—I trust it will pass in time, and so, do not wreck myself.
So now is your chance to follow Ice Cube’s advice. Set aside a couple of times in your day to check your internal weather. It might help to set an alert on your computer or phone to remind you throughout the day. At the appointed time, take a moment to get still, taking a few deep breaths. Turning your attention inward, notice how you feel. You can notice physical sensations, recurring thoughts, emotions, or the absence of any of these. Pay attention too, to your reaction to your internal weather—do you want it to change? Do you want it to stay like this forever? Do you wish you’d feel something? Keep in mind, this experiment simply asks you to notice what’s going on; there is no need for it to be a certain way or for you to feel a particular way. Each feeling and thought is worth noticing.
Having now checked yo’self, you can proceed in your day without wrecking yo’self.