Looking at the clouds from my balcony in the region of the black forest – Germany, I spotted an eagle flying over some nearby mountains. It was a real pleasure to look at because the serenity of its movement upon an Yves klein-blue sky silenced my thoughts.
Movements dictated by the wind seem extremely subtile and minimal. It seemed like a simple game orchestrated and formed by life itself. Fully learned to flying between clouds, mountains and trees, this big bird was completely at ease with its purpose to circling around. Finding mice or other little mammals to keep up with nature’s pace means everything up there. Assisted by the best eyes ever conceived by evolution, the evening sunlight and a fellow eagle crossing his path. He was more ready then ever for his next strike down.
Beholding this creature intensely almost made me become the eagle itself. It is an act of meditation in its purest sense. For this reason alone, I find gazing at clouds very usefull. I do it a lot because it enables me to focus visually on the temporary nature of all things.
It is crazy when one is aware of his own thoughts. It is like, paraphrasing Eckhart Tolle, you sense two identities within yourself. Even when this crazy state is only perceived for a slight moment, it can bring you back to your real self. The one identity that isn’t thinking, is constituted in the here and now. The other one is constantly making up thoughts about that real self fed by surroundings, other people, feelings and what not. It is hard not to be a slave of the thinking self in a way it drowns the freedom of the real self. Moments like these can help not only to be open minded or wondered, but also to stop the continuous flow of thoughts. Any meditative act is good enough. Breathing, looking at the sky, creating any art form and so on gives space to non-thinking states of being.
Let’s have a closer look at those thought fluxes now. Self perception is mainly formed by your own actions (e.g. things you do and say) and responses of others to these actions. Generally speaking and in combination with your actions, also your environment (social contexts such as work, family, friends and society) and the stimuli you perceive during the day have a big influence on your own identity. What one may forget easily are your thoughts that are spinning a web around your mind in a chronic manner. It is more than a habit, it is culturally inhibited and founded in Western society itself.
That said, it isn’t strange that we think a lot without even realizing it. We’re born in a cultural determined society for that matter. If we take this back to my experience with the eagle, it can be stated that many facts en scientific things can be said about the behavior, anatomy, hunting skills etc. of eagles in the black forest, Germany. There’s loads of research, no doubt, about those magnificent creatures. All those things are available in libraries, physical or virtual. Nevertheless, this ’thinking about’ eagles in a rational and scientific sense may originate from genuine amazingness, the categorizing and rationalizing act to some extend takes away a part of the sacred and magical angle of thoughtless gazing.
Gazing at clouds and skies now and than, give space to our real selves. The act of doing this isn’t only aesthetic, it also causes momentum for the internal recharging of our genuine identities as human beings. That’s why I like to dive into the mystery of the thoughtless unknown once in a while. It shows that there are many dimensions outside the thinking dogma which create peace and stillness.
(1) Tolle Eckhart, The power of now, 2001.
(2) The enlightenment at the end of the 18th century was the ultimate movement towards rationality. The French philosopher R. Descartes’ famous quote ”Je pens, donc je suis” didn’t leave much room for imagination. Although, a few centuries later great scientists such as Einstein and Bohr claimed that imagination is everything, reasoning has to serve this imagination.