Re: Relate to your mind as a clear spacious sky and to the thoughts as clouds.
Hey Graham, I'm looking at techniques for observing processes. Aikido takes many things that are unconscious and makes them conscious. That is a major aspect of practicing aikido, or any art or skill. Aikido seeks to move us from our conditioned responses (often programmed into us by society, culture, media, etc.) to something more free, more sovereign, more independent from any specific programming.
For instance, many of us seem to operate in a way that our thoughts seem to stream in the center of our heads. That doesn't have to be the case at all. We can shift the location of the thought stream - and in that, actually gain insight into the thought process itself. It's not as hardwired as we've been conditioned to believe.
In using a technique of observing streams of thoughts, we can place that stream out in front of us - say 6' away. And watch it - like data. One interesting thing that this does is clear the Central Channel where various dantien are located. This allows for a channel that's clear from thought streams to then be used for other purposes.
And then there's looking at the thought stream itself. Does it have to be a "stream?" From what direction does the stream flow? Do thoughts have to stream from up to down, or down to up? Can they stream sideways? Can we create several streams? Do they have to be linear streams? Can they swirl around and overlap each other? Can we create "stream patterns" - perhaps in the shape of a flower, or an ice cream cone, or a rocketship?
When we begin to observe the process, we find that we can really play around with it. It becomes fun. And this can then be extended into emotions and physical sensations. All of this is involved, intimately, in the practice of aikido.