How To Practice Mindfulness Meditation: In-Depth
How To Meditate
How Meditation Works
So you may be wondering, what is meditation, how does it work, and how do I do it? Before we dive into proper technique, perhaps it’s best to understand a little bit about the multilayered nature of the human mind and how meditation fits into the picture.
The Conscious Mind
Now you may have noticed that the mind likes to chatter away, whether it’s replaying something we said last night, worrying about our next mortgage payment, having an imaginary argument, fretting over how we look, planning what to eat for dinner, stressing about that big work deadline, or whatever else the busybody mind thinks over the course of its estimated 70,000 thoughts per day. It’s our "tip of the iceberg" conscious mind that generates this kind of "noisy" thought to thought to thought thinking, and it’s from this superficial level of mind that we spend most of our day.
The Deep Mind
But under the surface, the mind goes much deeper. Known as the "subconscious" mind and the "unconscious" mind, it’s these deep layers that hold the vast majority of our potential. While our rush rush rush, pull pull pull conscious mind sits above the surface chattering away, our deep mind is always below - seeing, hearing, feeling, and taking it all in. Instead of jumping from thought to thought to thought, our subconscious mind and unconscious mind think slowly, quietly, and deeply. While our conscious mind always wants to be in some other time or place, our deep mind stays present, forever anchored in the here and now. While our conscious mind is always rationalizing, judging, fearing, habiting, addicting, impulsing, worrying, and stressing - our deep mind is always below, cool, calm, and collected.
Where Meditation Fits In
So meditation works by simply quieting down our "one-dimensional" conscious mind and bringing our powerful "multi-dimensional" deep mind to the surface. In this way, instead of living life held back, limited to just the "tip of the iceberg" of what our mind can actually do, meditation opens access to everything under the surface - the vast reserve of potential thats been there all along, just hidden from view. So meditation puts to bed that version of us who may be anxious, addicted, depressed, afraid, unimaginative, irrational, scatterbrained, absent-minded, and unaware - and awakens that person deep down who is present, calm, creative, intuitive, smart, focused, wise, insightful, and highly aware. Our highest and best self resides under the surface.
Tip of the Iceberg
And that’s just how meditation works from the psychological perspective. We could get into the biology of meditation, including how meditation boosts an array of wonderful neurochemicals, how meditation activates certain "good" genes and deactivates certain "bad" genes, how meditation positively impacts our cells, how meditation targets our best and brightest brain regions, and so forth. Meditation affects us on so many levels, we could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the multi-layered nature of the human mind and how meditation works within that context, now we can dive into proper technique.
When choosing a meditation position, the goal is to be comfortable. But not so comfortable that you fall asleep. Looking for that happy medium.
With that in mind, most people find a seated position on a recliner, chair, cushion, or sofa to work particularly well. You are welcome to lean your weight against something (and if you do), using a pillow or couch cushion to support the lower back is quite common. Sitting cross legged vs straight legged is a personal preference, both are fine.
Because of the tendency to fall asleep, generally speaking, laying down is not recommended. If you must lay down, do your best to stay awake and aware. It is possible but requires more focus. If you find yourself falling asleep then switch to a seated position. With focus and relaxation both integral to the practice, many meditators find that they prefer a more upright position once their skill advances.
As for the hands, we recommend doing whatever feels natural and normal. You don’t need to do any kind of intricate hand gesture(s), simply placing them on top of the legs (palms down) is typical.
Final Note: The vast majority of meditators in the world practice with their eyes closed. As such, we recommend meditation with the eyes closed.
Addressing The Mind
Observing the Mind
In meditation we learn to be a "witness" to the mind and not a "participant." What does this mean, exactly? As we sit and practice, whenever thoughts arise, whatever they are, instead of getting wrapped up in them or fighting them or resisting them (which only feeds the conscious mind), we simply acknowledge them and let them go. Meditation isn’t about slowing down thoughts or stopping thoughts or anything like that. It’s more about becoming familiar with the activity of the mind without getting caught up in it. So we do our best to observe the mind (as if from a distance), and learn to be ok with whatever floats into awareness.
When the Mind Wanders
In meditation, we notice that the mind likes to wander. Actually, it’s great at it! That’s what the mind does. Whether it’s daydreaming, replaying memories, running down a to-do list, having imaginary arguments, worrying about this or that, it’s important to understand that it’s our "tip of the iceberg" conscious mind that generates this kind of noisy "thought to thought to thought" thinking. And meditation is the best tool for becoming familiar with it, and in time, even gaining a little bit of mastery over it. So, in meditation, whenever you notice your mind wandering, no need to get frustrated. It’s fine and perfectly natural. Simply let each thought go and return your attention to the present, with the inward/outward flow of the breath and the sensations of the body your two best "present moment" anchor points. In time, you may even begin to welcome each lapse in awareness as a good thing, as yet another opportunity to grow in mindful strength. After all, it’s only through this kind of repetition that we become more present and still in the mind.
No "Good" or "Bad" Thoughts
It helps to remember that, in meditation, there are no "good thoughts" or "bad thoughts." Even though it feels natural to label a particular thought as beautiful or hideous, joyful or worrisome, pleasant or unpleasant, boring or captivating, and so on. Like clouds moving across the sky or waves along the surface of the ocean, thoughts pass through the mind. There is no need to waste precious energy on that which is so fleeting, on that which is so temporary. So we observe the mind instead of getting involved, and we let thoughts come and go as if all thoughts are both equally important and equally unimportant. Since there are no bad thoughts there is nothing to resist. Since there are no good thoughts there is nothing to pursue. Just observing the mind as it is without trying to change anything.
Operating From Our Deep Mind
It’s through this practice of "thought observation" that allows the deep mind to surface. That part of us that thinks slowly and quietly. That part of us that’s timeless. That part of us that’s always present. That part of us that operates on gut feel, intuition, and instinct. That part of us that knows what to do in every situation. That part of us that doesn’t jump from thought to thought to thought. So in this practice of stepping away from the superficial conscious mind, we are actually operating from a much deeper place. From our subconscious and unconscious mind. And as we train ourselves to become ok with the conscious mind as it is, and not fighting with or reacting to the conscious mind’s constant stream of thoughts, we find that, in time, the (conscious) mind runs out of energy and begins to settle down on its own. And we begin to find more and more space between our thoughts. And we begin to live more and more of our life from a deeper place, a place of powerful and quiet thinking instead of thought to thought chatter box thinking. From a place closer to our true nature.
Observing Physiological "Thought Impact"
Many meditators find it helpful to develop a general awareness of how thought(s) impact the body. And so in your practice, if (and when) any kind of stressful thought surfaces within your mind, whether worry or fear or anger or whatever, see if you can observe how it affects you, physiologically. Outside of meditation, when we are far less aware of the mind-body connection, so called "turbulent" thoughts can impact us in a number of ways, including tensing-up our muscles, increasing our heart rate, "shortening" our breath, and so forth. But in meditation, especially as our skill sharpens, we begin to notice ourselves becoming more and more relaxed with all thoughts, including stressful thoughts. Training the body to not be impacted by the "turbulence of the mind" is a big part of what makes meditation such a highly beneficial practice.
Expectations & "Forced" Meditation
People new to meditation often come into the practice with certain assumptions about what "should" and what "shouldn’t" happen. They often expect the mind to be completely free of thoughts, or maybe they expect the body to automatically enter a trance-like state of deep relaxation. While these things do happen more and more as our meditative skill sharpens, for those of us new to the practice, it’s easy to want to kind of "force" things a little bit, trying extra hard to make them happen. Of course, in the same way that forcing yourself to fall asleep (usually) results in a night of tossing and turning, "forced" meditation actually impedes the process. So just remember that meditation isn’t about stopping thoughts from entering the mind, it isn’t about magically entering a deeply relaxed state, it’s more about becoming at ease with our thoughts and comfortable with the mind as it is. And once your skill to do that sharpens, then the conscious mind will begin to quiet and the body will begin to relax on their own.
Using The Breath
How to Breathe
In meditation we breathe naturally. No need to take extra long or extra deep breaths. The body already knows how to breathe, so we let it breathe on its own. All we have to do is observe the breathing process in its natural flow and rhythm.
Purpose of the Breath
In meditation, the breath is a powerful centering tool. Not only does it help to put a little more space between our thoughts, but it also redirects us to the present when our conscious mind inevitably wanders off. As such, the breath helps us operate from our deep mind instead of our conscious mind. So we do our best to stay on the breath.
Favorite Part of the Breath
Pay attention to where the breath stands out most for you. Maybe it’s the rising and falling sensation of your chest or stomach that’s most obvious. Or it’s the feeling of air moving through your nose or throat that stands out the most. Wherever it is, take note. Whether it’s your chest, stomach, nose, or else, you can use this "place" as a "present moment" focal point in your meditative practice.
Instructions for the Breath
In meditation, we stay with the breath as best we can, for as long as we can. And whenever we notice our mind "thinking," we simply recognize the content as "just another thought" (thereby letting said thought go), and we kindly, gently, and patiently return our attention to the breath. And we do our best to not judge where the mind wanders off to or get frustrated at how many times it wanders off. Whether we catch ourselves daydreaming, worrying, replaying memories, making to do lists, or whatever - with infinite patience and understanding, we gently let our thought(s) go and we bring our attention back to the natural rhythm and flow of the breath. Again and again. And if half your meditation session flies by without you being aware of the thinking mind, then no problem. Simply go back to the breath.
More About the Breath
While we spend our lives on autopilot, distracted, tuned out, at the full mercy of our "superficial" conscious mind - the breath is always there, nourishing our life force every moment of every day, under the full control of our deep mind. And so in meditation, instead of ignoring the breath, we observe it. We tune into it. We become at one with it. Each time we return to the breath, then it’s like completing a mindful muscle repetition. In time, our busybody conscious mind takes a backseat, and our ultra powerful subconscious and unconscious mind run the show. And that’s a very good thing.
Purpose of Physical Sensations: As mentioned before, we use the breath in meditation for a variety of reasons, including to help settle down our busybody conscious mind, to tune more into our deep mind, and so forth. Physical sensations can be used in much the same way. While there is no right or wrong way to do this, it’s a good idea to be aware of what most meditators like to do. Here are the basics:
Instructions: Whenever we notice that our mind has drifted away, whether it’s daydreaming, replaying memories, making plans, having imaginary arguments, worrying about this or that, as before, gently bringing our attention back to the breath. But this time, let’s also "check-in" on the sensations of the body. Not trying to "summon" sensations or "force" sensations or anything like that. Just noticing what’s already there, or whatever stands out the most, like a blurry picture becoming clearer and clearer, as we gently scan the body from head to toe. Here are the most commonly used/observed physical sensations:
What To Observe
#1. Weight & Gravity: Pay special attention to gravity, perhaps a general feeling of what’s often described as lightness / heaviness of the whole body or certain parts of the body - especially as the session deepens. The feeling of the hands (as they rest on the legs) is popular for this sensation.
#2. Tingling: Pay special attention to random tingling sensations. The palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are "hotspots" for this particular sensation.
#3. Itches: Pay special attention to random itches on the body. And rather than going for a quick scratch, see if you can observe the full life of the itch as it bubbles to the surface, lingers for a short time, and eventually resolves itself on its own. "Letting the itch go" is popular among many meditators.
#4. Contact & Pressure: Pay special attention to contact and pressure. For example, the places where your back and legs meet the chair. Or maybe where the soles of your feet meet the floor. This might be the most commonly observed physical sensation in meditation.
#5. Tension & Tightness: Pay special attention to muscle tension and tightness. Places on the body where you might be holding a bit of extra stress, such as the shoulders, neck, or lower back. And not trying to change anything here, just observing.
#6. Absence of Sensation: And also noticing the absence of sensation. The places on your body where you feel a little bit of numbness or even nothing at all. In meditation, that counts too.
More About Sensations
Don’t Forget the Breath: Observing the sensations of the body does not mean ignoring the breath. Like a camera widening the lens focus, in meditation we are simply expanding our awareness to include physical sensations - in addition to the breath.
Body Scan Visualization: When scanning the body for sensations, it may be helpful to think of a high resolution picture, pixel by pixel, coming into a clearer and clearer view. Perhaps the weight of your hands can be a few pixels, and the contact points with your chair can be a few more pixels, and hand / feet tingling as yet another round of pixels, and perhaps a general feeling of physical "lightness" can be the final round of pixels. And behold, the picture is now fully in view! But not for long. Because like thoughts, the sensations of the body come and go. As such, no two moments in meditation are the same. And so we continually scan the body for sensations, allowing the full picture come into view - if even for a brief moment.
Dealing With Pain & Discomfort: Just like when uncomfortable thoughts enter our mind, when we encounter unpleasant sensations (such as aches & pains), we do our best to not get wrapped up in them. And so if a specific painful physical sensation keeps bubbling to the forefront of our mind (i.e. "my lower back hurts", "my leg is falling asleep", etc.), we simply allow it to be held in awareness for a moment, and let go. Again and again. And just as our awareness of the chattering mind is precisely what it needs to settle down, it’s our awareness of physical discomfort and pain - without resisting it, without reacting to it, and without trying to change it, that allows it to unravel all on its own. By training our mind to let go of physical pain and discomfort, then the body very often follows suit. Mind over matter.
Favorite Sensations: In meditation, certain sensations tend to bubble-up into awareness time and time again. And that’s a good thing! So what stands out the most to you in your meditative practice? Is it the lightness or heaviness of your hands as they rest on your lap? Maybe it’s the soles of your feet touching the floor? Or the sense of your body as it’s held by the chair? Maybe it’s the ever-changing sensory landscape, such as tingling in your hands or feet followed by a random itch on your arm followed by light goosebumps. How about muscle tension or discomfort, perhaps in an area that has caused you problems in the past (i.e. lower back)? How about where you can sense nothing at all? That counts too. Having favorite "go-to" sensations is very helpful in meditation.
Avoid "Summoning" Sensations: When scanning the body for sensations, new meditators may try to "force" things a little bit. Of course, we are not trying to "conjure-up" certain sensations or anything like that. If you notice tingling in your hands or feet, fine. If not, fine. If you notice a general sense of heaviness or weightlessness of the body during your meditation session, fine. If not, fine. We are simply following the breath in it’s natural flow, and observing the sensations of the body whatever they may be, wherever they may be.
Each Session Will Be Unique: When it comes to the list of sensations that we can and will observe during meditation, there is no end. There are no right or wrong sensations, no two sessions will ever be alike, and no two meditators will use sensations in the same way. Your job is to simply find what works for you in your practice.
Meditation Sensations, Example #1: You might find yourself practicing in a comfortable position on the sofa, with a cushion (very nicely) supporting your lower back. And for this session, you may find the "embracing" quality of the couch cushion to be especially noticeable. And so you can keep coming back to this sensation whenever you notice your mind drifting.
Meditation Sensations, Example #2: Or maybe you notice an itch on your leg that needs attending to. But instead of scratching it like you would outside of meditation, you decide to take advantage of the "present-like-quality" of this pesky itch to re-anchor your awareness into the moment, coming back to it whenever you notice your mind wandering.
Meditation Sensations, Example #3: Or you may find that, as your meditation session deepens, your awareness is dominated by the feeling of your hands resting on your lap. And so whenever you find your mind drifting from the present, you can use the sensation of numbness or weightlessness or whatever you are feeling in your hands as the primary anchor point for this session.
Meditation Sensations, Example #4: Or maybe you notice a number of sensations at once and you "jump" between them like a pinball of awareness bouncing around the body. Perhaps this session involves juggling the sensations of foot tingling, a series of random itches, and general lower back discomfort. And for the next session you juggle the sensation of your ergonomic chair "embracing" your lower body, numbness in your right foot, and a kind of ever present palm tingling. You get the idea. This is the most common way to use physical sensations in meditation, observing many at the same time.
Sound: Internal Vs External Stimuli
Like the sensations of the breath and body, in meditation we can use sound to anchor our awareness into the present. However, since sound is "external," some believe that it should take a backseat to "internal" stimuli. Namely, the ebb and flow of thought, the breath, and the sensations of the body. These all happen within.
Meditation: "Background" Awareness of Sound
While having a general awareness of sound is important in mindfulness, we recommend letting it live in the "backstage" of awareness. This means that we, from time to time, simply "check-in" on the sounds in the room (if practicing silent meditation), and we, from time to time, simply "check-in" on the soundscape (if using Deepereum meditation audio) - before returning our focus to the sensations of the breath / body (i.e. "centerstage"). Internal stimuli over external stimuli, that’s the preference.
When practicing silent meditation (i.e. without headphones), we do our best to have a general awareness of the sound(s) around us. Of course, this means that we’ll sometimes run into something that we could do without. Whether it’s a noisy car passing by, an air conditioner buzzing away, a neighbor’s barking dog, or whatever. And so when we encounter something that we feel "disrupts" our meditative practice, then we consider it like any other thought. We simply let it go and return our attention to the sensations of the body and the breath. Like thought, all sound is part of this moment, no need to react to it, no need to change it. Just allow it to be, and use it to your mindful advantage.
Using Deepereum Meditation Audio
Hoping to see a better result, people new to Deepereum will sometimes focus their full attention on the entrainment sound(s). While it is indeed designed to make meditation much easier, focusing intently on the brainwave entrainment sounds can actually produce a "non-meditative" effect (ironically). So with that in mind, when using our program, the observation of the mind, breath, and body are the primary focus. The technology will do its job much better if you simply let the soundscape fade into the background of your awareness. Let the sound be what it was meant to be, a piece of the puzzle and not the whole puzzle. Do this, and you will see much better meditative results.
"Sound Meditation" vs. "Silent Meditation"
While practicing meditation in silence is a solid technique and a definite "must learn" at some point along the meditative journey, if you want to take your practice to the next level, sound is the way to go. Whether it’s the Tibetans and the singing bowl, the Aboriginal Australians and the didgeridoo, the Japanese Zen Buddhists and the bamboo flute, or the Native Americans and the frame drum, through the ages people (across many cultures) have used sound to facilitate, enhance, and deepen the meditative state. Deepereum is simply the modern embodiment of what has already been practiced for millenia.
How Meditation "Feels"
When it comes to "knowing" when you’ve entered a "proper" meditative state, perhaps the best marker is what we call the "mind awake, body asleep" state. Here’s what to look for:
The "Mind-Awake, Body-Asleep" State
(Note: These "meditation markers" don’t need to happen in any particular order).
• We begin to observe a dramatic slowdown of our rate of breath.
• We start to feel our body falling "asleep" (i.e. feeling a physical sense of "heaviness" or "lightness") while our mind stays conscious & alert.
• We begin to notice more and more space between our thoughts (i.e. occurring less frequently) and when thoughts do occur, they have less physiological impact on the body (i.e. heart rate stays the same no matter what enters our mind).
• We start to observe our conscious state moving more and more into "mindfulness," as defined here:
"Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you're mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging or labeling them as good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience." — Psychology Today
In this "trance-like" state of consciousness we can effortlessly find life solutions, release stubborn dysfunctional thought patterns, dig deep into our intuition, visualize creatively, have profound insight(s), become immune to stressful/fear based thinking, naturally balance our body’s chemistry, heal ourselves on the deepest level, and much more.
Clearly, achieving a meditative state (a.k.a. the "mind awake, body asleep" state), if for even a few minutes per day, opens the door to countless benefits: mental, emotional, and physical. And the more we practice, the more efficient / greater depth our meditation session(s) will be.
With that said, it is important to approach meditation without expectation. If we think that our practice is "supposed" to be a certain way - then we may begin to force things a bit. Obviously, much like falling asleep, "forcing" yourself into a meditative state tends to have quite the opposite effect.
As mentioned before, when we focus on the basics of mindfulness (noticing the sensations of the body, letting thoughts come and go, observing the inward and outward flow of the breath, etc), that’s when meditation naturally occurs. So relax, expect nothing, and let it happen naturally!
"Cars on the Highway" Metaphor
It may be helpful to think of the mind as a highway and our thoughts as the cars zipping back and forth. Instead of standing in the middle of the road and trying to stop the cars, or slow the cars, or even chase after the cars, which we often do when we react to our thoughts, or resist our thoughts, or fight with our thoughts, or chase after our thoughts - meditation teaches us to sit on the side of the road, watching and observing the "traffic of the mind" from a safe distance.
Once we internalize that it’s our conscious mind’s nature to fire off one thought after another, we can begin to approach our thoughts with patience, with understanding, and with balance. For the superficial conscious mind is only firing one thought after another because it can’t help it, that’s its nature. There is nothing good or bad about it. It just is. Water is wet, fire is hot, and the conscious mind generates thoughts. So we don’t get wrapped up or caught up in the barrage of the conscious mind.
Instead, we take a step back and watch our thoughts from a distance. And we remind ourselves from time to time that our true nature is contained within our slow, quiet, and deep thinking subconscious mind and unconscious mind. Those beautiful, incredibly powerful mind layers where the calm, present, smart, creative, intuitive, focused, and highly aware version of us can be found.
In meditation, especially in the early stages, it’s quite common to run into "stuff" that we have knowingly or unknowingly buried deep within the mind. Whether we’re dealing with something repressed or an old emotional wound, when "stuff" like this arises to the forefront of the mind (outside of meditation), our tendency is to maybe cringe, or become sad, or anxious, or agitated, or maybe we try to mentally "change the subject." Of course, when we resist or avoid or bury the "unwanted negativity" of the mind - it can not only resurface, it can intensify.
And when our psychological baggage does bubble up to the surface at a later date (with meditation as the perfect venue), it’s important to recognize that it’s happening for good reason. It’s because it’s been stewing deep down in our subconscious mind and hasn’t been properly dealt with. It’s because it may be holding us back in some way and some part of us wants / needs it to be resolved.
Luckily, meditation is the perfect way to shine a light on this kind of buried subconscious baggage. And most importantly, like steam rapidly escaping from a pressure cooker, meditation is the perfect release valve. So whenever you encounter a recurring theme in your mind, especially the kind that causes emotional pain or discomfort, nourish it in awareness, breathe with it, and embrace it. Each time you experience a strong current in the mind, like anguish, fear, or regret, smile in awareness.
And recognize that, in order to clear the clutter, sometimes the deep mind needs to do a little housecleaning. Your job is to simply observe what's present in the mind - without getting involved. It’s this process of breathing and being, it’s this process of seeing and letting go - that’s just the perfect solution for unloading the emotional sandbags which have, up until now, only served to weigh us down.
And when it comes to the many benefits of meditation, like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, this kind of "subconscious housecleaning" is one of the most powerful ways that meditation helps us reach our highest and best self.
100% Quiet Mind Myth
New meditators will sometimes think, "Why isn’t my mind "empty!? What am I doing wrong!?" It’s important to realize that having a "100% clear mind" is not really possible. In fact, it’s been said that the human mind "thinks" over 70,000 thoughts per day! All the meditation in the world isn’t going to bring that number down to 0. That’s not the goal here anyway.
What the ancient mind practice can do is, instead of chasing after thoughts, or resisting thoughts, or fighting with thoughts, or reacting to thoughts, as we humans are so adept - instead, meditation teaches us to simply take a step aside from the whirlwind that is the human mind (namely, the "superficial" conscious mind).
Once we learn to observe our mind without getting "sucked-in," and once we learn to approach our mind with a sense of patience and neutrality - as meditation teaches us so well, then the (conscious) mind begins to settle down on its own. This "handing of the baton" from the conscious mind to the deep mind is where the magic happens.
Don’t I Need My Thoughts?
Those new to meditation will sometimes wonder, "Don’t I need my thoughts? Don’t my thoughts make me who I am? If my mind becomes still and quiet won’t I lose something very important?" The truth is that the mind is incredibly complex, a multi-layered hierarchy, if you will.
We all know the iceberg metaphor, it applies well to the nature and complexity of the mind. Where our conscious mind, that sliver of a layer barely above the surface, the superficial mind layer that we use for 90% of our daily activities, is just the tip of the iceberg. While waiting below the surface is much, much more. It’s our deep mind layers, the subconscious and unconscious, that hold the vast majority of our potential.
So when we think that quieting the mind will make us lose something important, remember that meditation is simply the act of bringing the deep mind to life. And by allowing the superficial conscious mind to settle down, and by bringing the subconscious and unconscious mind layers to the surface, and into the forefront of consciousness - there is nothing lost, and everything gained.
The "Mind as Sky" Metaphor
The "mind as sky" metaphor is often used to illustrate how to approach thoughts, sensations, and feelings in meditation. What’s that, you ask?
Think of the mind as like the immense sky. And just as clouds appear in the sky, hang around for awhile, and drift off over the horizon, we can have thoughts and feelings that float into awareness, take hold of our attention for a time, and drift out of consciousness.
Of course, everyday is different for the sky. Some days the sky is blanketed by dark storm clouds, while other days the sky is clear. Likewise, the mind is sometimes blanketed by irritation, agitation, anxiety, fear, or worry. While at other times the mind is calm and peaceful. The important thing to remember is that, just as the sky holds every cloud with ease - our mind can hold every thought, every sensation, and every emotion with ease.
So whenever you feel like your mind is overwhelmed, or whenever you have problems dealing with uncomfortable thoughts and emotions in your meditative practice, simply take a step back. And remember that you are the sky and not the passing clouds. That your mind is so vast and so spacious that it can easily handle anything and everything that drifts into awareness.
Your job is to simply watch the clouds (thoughts, feelings, sensations) come and go, and recognize that it’s ultimately through awareness of the clouds, and through awareness alone, that allows them to dissipate (on their own). It’s through our awareness of the clouds that we get to experience more of our true nature, the clear blue sky (i.e. pure conscious awareness).