As I write this I notice that the thermometer reads minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit/minus 18 Celsius. The storm windows are half frosted over. So even when I try to look out of the windows, I can’t see anything but the crispy, flat surface of the windowpane.
Even if we can see outside the windows, this time of the year, we tend to close ourselves off from the hostile, cold outdoors. Cocooning is the popular term for this activity. This mind-state is greatly enhanced in many minds when a blizzard or ice storm comes through. At first, we might feel trapped inside. We may have had plans for a happy, active weekend away from home. But upon hearing weather forecasters remind us of travelers’ advisories and road closings, we begin to mentally go within.
This same mental condition happens when we become physically ill with a severe cold or flu. No matter how extroverted and outgoing the person might normally be, that changes when the head throbs, the fever burns and the upset digestive system sounds the alarm. This is necessary in order to focus precious energy towards the healing process. This could be considered a red-alert time for the body.
We’ve all been through the mental version of the red alert, too. Maybe we got dumped by a girl or boy friend. The boss saw fit to downsize you. A loved one died. These are severe assaults on our well-being, so we tend, again, to mentally cocoon to heal our hurts. This is completely normal and to be expected to happen.
At these times, the cutest kitten or the most spectacular sunset will barely phase you. At best, you get an upbeat blip on your mental radar, but you soon mentally retreat in your pain. Again, this is normal, for awhile.
There are times when we can get stuck in the smallness of the cocoon. Those times when healthy introspection and self-analysis devolves into self-absorbtion. This can happen so seamlessly and smoothly that we might fail to notice. This state of mind can not only seem normal, but it might even feel a bit cozy. Sometimes this behavior might last several months. Often, it settles in for the rest of a person’s life. The power of inertia is frequently difficult to overcome.
My natural introvertive personality has gotten stuck in cocoon mode a few times. Luckily, I’ve been able to snap out of those periods with some strength and growth as the result. The last time I was hit with a triple whammy. I was “downsized” from my work. I lost my step-mother/friend to a stroke and death. My younger brother died of a coronary event. These all happened in somewhat rapid-fire order. Just as recovery from one began to shape up, another event happened, then the same for the third. That’s a lot of cocooning and self-reflection.
It was a lot of time spent inside waiting for the stormy weather to subside. I thought I had all of those situations in hand and under control. That is, until the recent panic attack in October. I hadn’t had one of them since 1990 a few months after the death of my mom. Then, I spontaneously healed after finding out that I was not having a heart attack. This recent recurrance was a tougher nut to crack, because I knew about panic attacks but couldn’t believe they had returned.
I took the time to phone my friend, Jigme, who is a Tibetan monk in South India. He listened closely and carefully. He then told me to think of the sky. He then said, “better yet, go outside and look at the sky”. Luckily we were not having rain, so I saw the endless vista of stars and galaxies. He asked what I saw. I told him I was looking at outer space.
Jigme chuckled and said the sky and outer space are the truth of spaciousness. He told me that whenever I feel closed into my inner mental room, that I need to physically step outdoors, in any weather, and look at the sky. Even if there are clouds or rain or snow, the spaciousness will still be present.
Doing this will help you to change the focus from within the mind, to other people outside the mind. Jigme reminded me of something I learned long ago. The greatest joy is to focus upon the well-being of others, not exclusively upon yourself.
Just looking at the sky without thinking of anything but spaciousness became the key to kicking me out of my funk.
The same is happening now. I see my thermometer reads 0 degrees F/minus 17 C. The sun is peeking over the building next door. I see a glimpse of the light blue sky through the top of the frosty window. A case of cabin fever has been averted. I’d still like to snuggle with a lover, inside, away from the winter chill, but I’m also eager to get outside and carry on with the day.
The Blue Jay of Happiness is at home in the spaciousness of the vastness of the sky.