It has recently occurred to me to write out some other helpful metaphors to know what mindfulness is like. Some metaphors for mindfulness are based in passive observation, simply being present to your experience. The effect of sober presence itself is a healing and balancing force in the mind. You can call this passive mindfulness. The other kind involves a form of mindfulness that incorporates some kind of active relationship to your mind, using mindfulness as the basis for transformation as a practice. You can call this active mindfulness. Here are some metaphors for both passive and active mindfulness:
Passive mindfulness is like the sky, allowing all clouds to enter into it, dark clouds or light clouds, positive or negative, without actually being ultimately affected by them, since once they pass on the sky is just as clear as it was before. Just like this is passive mindfulness, allowing your thoughts to arise and pass, your experiences to arise and pass, without attachment or resistance, observing form a centered and balanced place.
Active mindfulness is like a sailor. The sail boat is driven by the winds, which flutter and move this way and that and are not stable. And the waves crash and are not stable. What makes the boat stable at all is the sailor's constant pulling at the ropes of the sail to force the wind to pull the boat where she wants to. This constant vigilance and effort, which actively in the moment adjusts to the conditions of the wind, is like mindfulness and our thinking mind. Our thoughts are like the wind, constantly flowing from one thing to the next. Through mindfulness we have the ability to hold the ropes of our mind and steer our thoughts in the direction we wish to go. Without that we are at the whim of the winds, which may lead us to topple our boat or sink. Mindfulness allows us to steer our minds in the desired direction, refining our good habits and leading to transformation.
Passive mindfulness is like watching a movie. When the forms are displayed on the screen we can enjoy them without thinking we are them. Likewise we can see our thoughts like a movie, in that we can enjoy our thoughts or not without thinking we are our thoughts. That way we can choose to watch the movie or not if we don't like it.
Active mindfulness is like an apple farm worker on a sorting line. All day his job is to inspect the apples to see if they are of good quality. This one is good, this one is good, this one is rotten, this one is ok. Like that is our mindfulness, discerning if our thoughts are of good quality.
Mindfulness is a foundational practice for anyone who wishes to actively cultivate their minds. Both passive and active mindfulness are necessary to bring about a complete transformation. May you cultivate a strong and stable mindfulness practice that your transformation may be swift and graceful.