Glimmers and glows: musings of a cloudwatcher

rays of orange sunlight burst from behind a dark cloud in the foreground | glimmers | ventral vagal | Tempo Therapy and Consulting

5 Apr 2023

Being a cloud-lover has brought me great joy, moments of contemplation, imagination, connection, wonder and playfulness. And it turns out that having an ability to connect with ourselves and the world around us in these ways is very important for our capacity to shape our nervous system towards health and wellbeing. Most of us are familiar with 'triggers' but do you know about building awareness of and connecting to a sense of the goodness within and around you through 'glimmers'? Join me in this exploration of glimmers through clouds.

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I’m a cloud lover from way back.

I’ve always loved the mix of connection, playfulness, solitude, science, imagination and awe that cloud-watching brings:

  • the slow roll of ever-changing skyscapes;
  • the fun of watching dragons chasing demons before drifting away;
  • the images, shapes and beings that emerge as clouds shift, turn themselves inside out and reach out to join fellow cloud-wisps before merging into new beings;
  • the quiet contemplation, stillness and freedom to be.

How sweet to be a cloud. Floating in the blue!

A.A. Milne

Some of my keystone memories are framed by clouds and their weatherworn colours, shapes, flavours and moods:

  • furious, black thunderclouds rumbling across the sky like a wave unleashed into a summer afternoon
  • lying in the long grass, the warm sun on my cheek and the smell of summer alongside a bright blue sky with white fluffy cottontops gently gliding past
  • dramatically beautiful autumnal skies of pink, orange and purple
  • smooth disc-shaped clouds that my friend would say are disguising aliens
  • blankets of woolly grey, inviting cocooning in blankets and comfort in front of the fire
  • bobbing in lulling waves that mirror a blue sky streaked with altocumulus

They all have personality and mark memories, people and places in time, whilst also bringing a sense of connection.

{NB: A brief google search into cloud watching suggests that I am not alone in my love of clouds.

There are distinct names for cloud lovers: "cloudspotter and nephophile".

  • Cloudspotting: "The observation of clouds as a recreational activity" (Glosbe Dictionary).
  • Nephophilia: love of clouds; Nephophile: a person who loves clouds.

Not to mention, a whole website, The Cloud Appreciation Society, dedicated to nephophiles everywhere. Here you can find poems, music, photos, artwork, information all about clouds and a special spot for the 'cloud of the day'. I particularly recommend the extensive cloud library}.

But I digress.

Sunset over the ocean in Yawuru country • Minky van der Walt

Cloud watching invites presence and nudges us towards creativity, evoking some of the core components that Deb Dana describes as being essential in shaping our autonomic nervous system towards health and resilience through ‘glimmers’.

What are glimmers?

Simply put, glimmers are the opposite of triggers.

Most of us know what triggers are: they are part of our survival response and propel us into action to protect us from real or perceived threat.

Triggers operate underneath our conscious awareness, so that we find ourselves reacting before we think:

  • Jumping away from a huntsman spider
  • The ability to shift our approach from one of excitement to one of seriousness when we see a friend is upset
  • Ducking for cover when a magpie swoops

Whilst triggers activate our survival response, glimmers activate our ventral vagal response; that is our ability to feel safe, protected and connected to the good in the world.

In order to help us to survive, our negativity bias has us focused on the triggers. However, without making time and space to look for the glimmers, "we can miss opportunities to notice and connect with moments of positivity and nourishment” (Dana in 'Anchored').

Glimmers are micro-moments of ventral vagal experience that routinely appear in every day life, yet frequently go unnoticed.

How can we build awareness of glimmers?

Glimmers are small pockets of regulation; feel-good moments that can support, nourish and excite us, depending on what we need.

  1. What brings you joy? A sense of peace? A sense of ease?
  2. What inspires awe?
  3. What brings out your playful side?
  4. What brings feelings of warmth and connection, both within and to the people around you?
  5. Which people make you feel good?
  6. What helps you to rest and relax?

These are the places to start to look for glimmers.

The more that we focus on our glimmers, the more we can build these micro-moments into a collective glow of ventral vagal safety, connection and nourishment.

Some ways to consider augmenting your glimmers into glows are through enhancing your ability to:

Take each glimmer one little spark at a time.

See how you can begin to build your awareness of each of these micro-moments of goodness.

I'm off to cloudspot now - what about you?

What might you do today to connect with the little things that light you up?

At home? At work? Out and about?

Feel free to share them with me here.

Having your head in the clouds, even for just a few minutes each day, is good for your mind, good for your body, and good for your soul.

Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Related Resources

Header image: Marcus Dall