When I was a child, I used to play a game with friends called “making the clouds disappear.” Days that clouds were scattered and puffy were ideal. We would each pick a cloud and focus all our energy on making it disappear, and sure enough, with patience, they would disappear! What was wonderful about the game was the experience of oneness, of sky, mind, space. It was the magic of active imagination! As adults, we intellectually might grasp that this is the nature of phenomena. Conceptually, we can understand that the clouds are empty of any permanence, always changing. However, intellectually grasping the idea is not the same as watching clouds disappear! As an adult, we may feel separate, disconnected from life because of our self created constructs that form our outlook on life. In a child’s imagination, what is or is not real is not so fixed. In adulthood, we cling much more to our hard and fast ideas of what is or is not real. It is this clinging and the attachment to our view that keeps us stuck in our clouds of ignorance and feeling separate, disconnected from life. Nonetheless, the clear blue sky is unaffected by the clouds, small and wispy or large and stormy. Just like the clear blue sky, what is called “Original Nature, Buddha Nature, Mind” in our Zen practice is always present in its purity, nothing can be added or taken away. Meditation is a lot like “making the clouds disappear”. If we approach our meditation practice with an open imagination, suspending our belief or disbelief in what we think, focusing our attention on our own clouds of ignorance, with patience, they will also disappear.
—Will Rauschenberger, Abbot, Ordinary Zen Sangha