The rain is coming down today. I used to hate the rain when I was a kid, uncomfortable getting wet and having to stay inside for recess. These days, I quite enjoy the rain, albeit I still prefer to be inside a comfortably warm house. I was slightly nervous about moving to the Seattle area because the rain and clouds are often associated with gloomy moods and depression. This association between dark days and depression, although rooted in some scientific evidence for a lack of vitamin d being connected to depressed mood, is also an idea that we hold in our minds that does not necessarily need to be true. Setting aside individual differences for a moment, we can acknowledge that plenty of people in the Pacific Northwest do not struggle with depression and like I am beginning to discover, even those of us that may have some genetic predisposition to a low mood can find joy and a lack of gloom in the rainy days.
Being trained as a counseling psychologist, and practicing as a counselor and coach, I believe in a great power that we hold within our mind. As a somewhat spiritual man, I also believe in an even greater force that exists beyond our minds, an innate knowledge in our bodies and through all things that we may not control, yet can observe and channel. How else could the world work as such an intricate and complex interdependent interplay of things.
Thus, I offer you a possibility. I offer you the option to remain open and curious. I offer you the practice to drop away preconceived ideas like “if the weather is gloomy, I will be depressed.” Instead remain open to the million other meanings that gloomy weather can hold. In fact, reflecting on the life sustaining aspect of rain and water, we can already begin to appreciate the rain falling, especially when regions of CA are dangerously low in water supplies. Likewise, if we choose to practice new thoughts and new attitudes and perspectives, we can observe the rain and appreciate its unique qualities as rain; cool, slippery, wet, blurry lines on the window pane, fragrant smells as it mixes with grass and dirt. If we can observe with bare attention, and drop away our preconceived negative ideas about rain, we open ourselves up to a richer, multidimensional experience of the world; which is simply more enjoyable.
I admit this is a difficult practice to maintain. After a 10 mile hike to a beautiful panoramic mountain peak view, it is somewhat easier to sit in awe of the world, yet amidst our daily life of work, school, and constant interactions; we do things like get our feelings hurt, linger on discomforts, seemingly clinging to our discontent, frustrations, and self-pity. We lose touch with what is important in our lives, our love and our enchantment with the marvel of our experiences; instead getting attached to worries about the future and lamentations of the past. We take these past experiences, like feeling depressed in mid-winter after 2 weeks without sunshine, to be our reality; when, in fact, our reality is only in the present moment and is only dictated by the past if we choose to have it do so.
So, it helps to have a reminder, something that cues us to pay attention, to observe with openness and curiosity, rather than being caught in negative thoughts and experiences that tie us to our past and actually create an unpleasant future. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps the rain itself can be your reminder, or maybe the beam of sunlight that pokes through the clouds. For others, it can simply be your breath, or each time you take a bathroom break. Choose a cue, a reminder, something that occurs every day throughout your day, and make this your practice to become present. With this minute, tap into your 5 senses and observe as much as you can. In your mind, tell yourself to remain open and curious. When uncomfortable thoughts and sensations arise, simply watch those as well. They will pass as all things do, and you will see that they lose their sting under your watchful eye. Let those thoughts and worries drop away and tap into the rich experience in front of you and within you. Input a sense of love and awe for the people in your life and the experience of your life; and you can cultivate these positive qualities that replace your angers and fears. Think of your loved ones, your animals, your friends and yourself to assist in cultivating feelings of love and appreciation and wish them all well. You must practice to see, which takes some concerted effort, but the payoff is a more enjoyable life.