Wind has always been my least favorite weather condition.
When it snows, I can wear my warm furry boots.
When it rains, I can walk comfortably under my umbrella.
When it’s cold, I can bundle up in my down jacket and knitted cap.
But when it’s windy? I get blown around and my hair gets all messy.
And there’s nothing I can do about it.
Recently I took my dogs for a walk on a particularly windy morning, and though I was bundled up for the 30-degree weather, I started to get annoyed as my face was getting wind-whipped and raw. Trying to bring a bit of mindful acceptance to my situation, I focused on the trees, stripped of all their leafy protection and exposed to the elements, rocking and swaying with a steady dignity in the same winds I was silently cursing.
The trees weren’t getting mad at the wind.
After all, the trees hadn’t expected the morning to be still and peaceful, only to awaken to turbulence.
The trees weren’t telling each other that they couldn’t handle any more windy mornings, or that our block ALWAYS gets the windiest wind…. They were just there, hanging out in the wind.
I realized that perhaps these trees could teach me something about my aversion to wind:
It’s all about equanimity.
Equanimity is the Buddhist concept of evenness of mind, of mental composure even in the midst of challenging events and emotions. It’s not grasping to the present moment, or resisting the present moment. It is the ability to recognize and experience our thoughts and feelings without letting them knock us to the ground.
It’s the ability to shake and bend violently in the wind, yet always return to an upright posture.
I recalled a similar experience from a time I was on silent retreat in California, as I stared at the dry grass while drinking my morning coffee on a windy summer morning. These reeds, two thousand miles away from my neighborhood trees, shimmied and leaned, undulating to the rhythm of the wind, always regaining their balance — bending when moved, returning to stillness when the atmosphere quieted.
They weren’t upset that the wind was messing up my hair.
The grass can’t get mad at the wind — blowing things around is just what wind does.
But I sometimes get mad at the wind. I get angry when it wrecks my hairdo or takes my breath away or throws me off balance.
I, like the grass, am “only a reed.” Yet as seventeenth-century philosopher Blaise Pascal added, I am also “a thinking reed.” And therefore I think about why the wind has come to torment me, why it wants to ruin my day.
So the other morning, on my walk, I tried simply allowing the wind to be there. I didn’t think about why it came or how long it was going to stick around. I simply accepted it as part of the morning. I hadn’t anticipated a windy day, but I certainly couldn’t stop it, either.
Perhaps this is why so many writings about mindfulness reference waves and wind — they’re the weather conditions that catch us most by surprise, and remind us of how little about the world we control.
How much time do we spend trying to control the wind, rather than adjusting our sails?
There are many things that we do control, and we can take skillful action when it’s needed.
But we should probably make peace with the wind…. and all the other unexpected weather patterns and upheavals that mess up our carefully-styled hair and our carefully-laid plans.
Perhaps you like the wind… but I’m sure there’s something that you resist. For today, see if you can soften around it. You don’t have to like it, but just see what’s it’s like to not resist. See what it’s like to allow things to be just as they are.
The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.”