Lately, the sky has been overcast. The clouds throw a blanket across the sun, making everything seem dull and grey. It is hard to maintain a ‘sunny’ disposition. Even though the light shines brightly above the water vapor shield, I am likely to spend too much time contemplating the darkness—unless I remember the light.
Clouds appear to obscure a sunlit sky but the sun is still there. Emotional thoughts appear to obscure the clarity of our minds but the clarity remains unaffected. When we practice settling the mind, we first become aware of the clouds—but then we abide in the spaciousness of the sky. So, it is important to look directly into the nature of what obscures our clarity.
The Buddhist tradition describes two obscurations: emotional and cognitive. Emotional obscurations or kleshas arise when we are ensnared by emotional reactions to life events. These are described as: attachment (desire), aversion (anger, hatred), ignorance (misperception), jealousy (envy, longing), pride, and greed. On the other hand, cognitive obscurations are all the ideas we have about reality as inherently existing and graspable. It is our attempt to make something out of nothing.
The cloud analogy applies to both emotional and cognitive obscurations. With practice, we can begin to see emotions like water vapor. The seem to appear but, when we stare directly at them, we recognize them as momentary clouds of awareness that dissipate on their own. If we do not identify with an emotional thought, it naturally liberates. The same is true with our perception of reality since it is nothing other than a projection of whatever is in our mind at the moment.
As I write these words, I know them to be momentary ideas that can take infinite forms. I write and rewrite, observing the shape-shifting pattern of my awareness and skill as a writer. When we stare ‘nakedly’ into any experience, the light of our original nature illuminates a shape-shifting scene. But the sun of clarity never changes, nor is it ever obscured. The warmth of the sun actually drives the weather. Even the darkest time is an emanation of light.