Peaceable Man Files #39: A Sudden Change in the Weather
Random musings on my vagabond existence in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and wherever else life takes me.
After a gorgeous weekend that felt more like summer than fall, the weather turned suddenly winter-like this past week up in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania.
A cold front moved in early in the week and by Halloween night, the temperatures had plunged into the upper 20s Fahrenheit. Wednesday brought snow squalls that shrouded the mountain and coated the unsuspecting ground with a dusting of snow.
Along with the cold came some wicked winds. The winds stripped off most of the leaves from the trees around the property, putting an end to my fall foliage watching. The trees will be bare now until April when the swelling buds will bring color back to the landscape.
Does all this portend a harsh, snowy winter? I have no idea and I suspect whoever puts together the Farmer’s Almanac has no idea either. For all the progress made in meteorology over the past half century, the weather remains stubbornly unpredictable.
Still, it is prudent to prepare. I have work to do in the days ahead. I need to swap out the mower deck on the tractor for the snowplow. I need to set out the markers along my long driveway to outline the edges for plowing. I need to winterize the travel trailer and put the battery on a trickle charger for the winter so it’s not deader than a doornail come spring.
The water needs to be turned off to the outside spigots … the hoses brought in so they don’t burst from freezing … the outside patio furniture put away. So much to do. There’s a certain comfort in bringing one season to a close and beginning a new one. Change sweeps away staleness and makes everything fresh and new.
As I go about the chores, I think about how our human moods and emotions are much like the weather. We have good days and bad days, sunny days and cloudy days, days when all feels right in our world and we can’t wait to step out into the sunshine, and days when we don’t want to get out of bed in the morning for dreading what lies ahead.
The thing about human emotions is that, like the weather, they can change quickly. We can’t depend on them. Everything is going along fine and we think we’ve finally attained tranquility in our lives, and then a storm blows in and suddenly we’re anxious and upset and it feels like we’ll never have peace again.
All of this can make us feel like we’re helpless victims of our own internal weather systems. But it’s important to remember that while we can’t control the things that happen to us in this life, we do have a great deal of influence over how we react to those things.
Our society tends to exalt emotions, to view them as they end-all and be-all of what it means to be human. But the fact is that emotions are secondary, not primary. That is, emotions arise as a result of stimulus. Something happens—a thought, an event, careless words spoken by a spouse or friends—and we react with a feeling.
The reaction usually happens so swiftly that we think the stimulus and the response are inextricably joined and there’s nothing we can do about it. But it’s not true.
In between the event and the feeling that follows it is a complex set of perceptions, beliefs, and emotional triggers that turn the stimulus into a felt emotion, whether positive or negative. The process goes something like this:
I like to call that in-between stuff our internal manifesting machine. The machine is unique and personal to each of us, the result of our past experiences and traumas. This is why the same thing that upsets one person can have little or no effect on someone else.
Learning how this process works within our own selves can be liberating. It certainly was for me. For many years of my life, I felt like a human weathervane. Whenever the winds of life blew, my emotions blew with it.
As long as those winds were favorable and brought happy things, it was no problem. But when bad things happened, as they always do in life, my moods swung with them, sometimes to very dark places.
It took me years of therapy and internal work to understand my own internal manifesting machine well enough to be able to respond more consciously and productively to the things happening to me. While I still have a lot more work to do, I am no longer a weathervane. And my life is a lot more peaceful.
None of us, with the exception perhaps of great yogi masters, are able to fully master their internal manifesting machine—it’s a journey that continues until our dying day. But if we put in the work, we can learn enough to be able to stand at the till of our own ships and reach a point of equanimity in our lives.
What happens then is truly magical. We are no longer victims of the storm fronts that blow in. We can stand back and watch the storms that blow in, and our reaction to them, knowing that they, like all things, will pass.
That—not a fancy title, not a fat bank account, not a cult following on social media—is true power.
Happy November. May your month be blissfully free of storms.