Tag Archives: september

Practising Presence

I’m over a week into my challenge to be present. I could tell you that I’m completely zen, that I’ve attained enlightenment, and that I’m connected with and full of love for the entire universe. But I won’t do that.

I’ll be honest. I’m not there just yet. I’m definitely not present all the time. I’m probably not even present half the time. However, the knock-on effect from simply setting this challenge is that it’s making me much more aware. And once you’re aware, you begin to wake up.

I’m looking at my thoughts and feelings with interest. Rather than scolding myself for not being perfect, I’m observing my reactions with curiosity and humour. And when I notice my mind fleeing from the present, I’m now able to catch the tail of my projections and coax myself back to centre.

I recognise that I always have a choice as to how I feel in any given moment. I can decide which thoughts to believe. I can question my assumptions. And I can release stagnant patterns so that life flows with ease, joy and abundance.

For most of my life, the extravaganza of my ego hypnotised me. But now that I’m sampling pure pockets of peace, this mindfulness jazz tastes like more.

Today, I sit in the September sun. For fear of doing nothing, I walk outside armed with phone, book, journal and iPod. But I get a sense that I’m doing this out of habit. I ignore the paraphernalia, put my feet up, tilt my face skyward, and appreciate the wine-stained autumn leaves and the heat on my toes. The crumpled clouds remind me of a morning strand, slick from a recent tide.

This evening though, I huff and puff over the stories my mind barrages me with. Again, it dawns on me that I’m doing this out of habit. I take a breath, drop into my core, and let it go.

In bed tonight, my mind visits many foreign and oft-explored destinations. At first, I indulge these memories, fantasies and nightmares. Then, I shift out of the nonsense and into the present. Only in presence do I realise that my body is clenched and I’m not lying in a comfortable position. I give myself permission to relax.

zdravoslovnohranene.com

zdravoslovnohranene.com

If you want to become more present, remember that practice makes “perfect”. It may be helpful to figure out which places and techniques assist you with the process. Being in nature usually grounds me. So does concentrating on my breath.

And yes, it is easier to be present when faced with a special moment or a spectacular view. Being present comes effortlessly when you gaze at the enormous moon in a glittering sky. Or when you watch the holiday sun melt into the horizon. Or when you turn your attention to your other senses – sinking into a yoga pose after a long day; the sensation of a lover’s touch; the strangely comforting sound of the roaring rain and wailing wind at your window.

But what about all the other moments? How can you be present during the difficult, sad and angry episodes? Can you maintain your presence of mind, body and spirit throughout the mundane and the chaotic? When you’re stuck in traffic or shuffling at the back of a massive queue? When you’re exhausted after a trialling time or choked up with dread over an imminent event?

Don’t worry if your desire to be present doesn’t manifest immediately or if it vanishes at the first sign of struggle. Simply be aware of how you are. The key is to treat yourself with compassion. Whenever I have trouble with mindfulness, I  recall a friend’s suggestion:

“You must be gentle with yourself. Each time you attach to thought and abandon the present moment, bring yourself back with the lightest nudge. Like with the soft top of a paintbrush.”

With practice, presence will start to become automatic. Because it’s our natural state. We just got a little lost along the way. We got caught up in the adventure, we drank in too much drama, and our vision grew blurry.

But now that I’m sobering up, I can focus on the path home, and I finally understand that I don’t have to travel very far. I don’t have to go anywhere at all. I just have to be.

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Thoughtclouds

It’s been a roller coaster of a week. I hurtled into shock, grief, disappointment and confusion. And I soared with laughter, love, joy and beauty.

For the month of September, I’ve decided to be present. And for the first few days, my commitment to this challenge has really been tested.

Instead of beating myself up over being less than perfectly present, I’m glad that I’m aware when I swing high above and far below the present moment.

When I experience a rush of happiness, I look at it with curiosity. I can see that this feeling was born by a thought. A fleeting image of an interesting man I’ve been chatting with. I detach from the reverie and come back to the present.

When I tell myself I’m in a bad mood, I question it. Am I this feeling? Does it belong to me? I examine it. I realise that I feel this way because I just read a message from a friend who’s depressed.

If she’s feeling unwell, should I feel lousy too? Is it my responsibility to make her better? I need to cut the cord that I have loving placed around both our necks before we strangle one another completely. I unravel the attachment and step back into the present.

When I believe a thought, I adhere importance to it. A feeling arises from this connection. This can occur so quickly that it’s difficult to spot the sequence. Now that I understand what’s happening, I ask myself: What am I choosing to believe? And is that true?

This evening, I flake out on the armchair and watch the thoughts that dance for my attention. What can I say to help her? Will I go to badminton tonight? Would it be better to drive to the airport next week or get the bus? Maybe she doesn’t like me any more. Will I grow old gracefully? I wonder if we’ll fancy one another… I need to make an appointment for a bikini wax. What’ll I wear tomorrow night? Where am I going to live? Is everything okay?

The thoughts shimmy before me and I am exhausted. I decide that I’m too tired to think. I just couldn’t be bothered.

I could simply be present. Isn’t that where I want to be anyway? Isn’t that where I am? Spiritual teacher Mooji said:

“You’re like the infinite sky. Can any clouds come and stay? Everything is passing, everything is passing. Will you fall in love with a cloud? How long will your relationship last?”

Thoughts come. Thoughts go. Feelings surface. Feelings change. Nothing is permanent. Nothing stays the same. Everything passes, like clouds.

Why then should I fear what won’t last? And why should I hold tight to things that cannot remain? I’d rather not waste time and energy when there really is no point in doing so.

So I sit here, close my eyes and breathe. And the thoughts pass. Like clouds.

Lost in Thought

It’s after midnight so it is now the first of September. My self-determined challenges for this month are to stop biting my lip and fingers (something I’ve been doing since I was a child) and to be present (and whenever I discover that I’m not being present, I’ll gently bring myself back).

Tonight, I lie in bed, wide awake. I cry for my friend Michelle, who died suddenly. Since receiving the shocking and upsetting news, my emotions have become heightened.

I went for a long walk today and photographed the sun in the trees. I gazed delightedly at the yellow crescent moon perched low in the dusky sky. Music pulses through my body like blood.

I feel for Michelle and her parents. I remember the times we had together. I wonder how I’ll be at her funeral.

My mind flits from Michelle to a guy I’m interested in to an upcoming holiday to work and back to Michelle. I bite my lip.

I glance at the time. It’s twenty-five minutes past midnight. It’s September, I realise with a jolt and snatch my hand away from my mouth. I’m supposed to be present now.

I groan as I recognise that sometimes I actually enjoy being entertained by the drama of my mind. I quite like fantasising and reminiscing and anticipating. Mindfulness can be boring, right? Twenty-five minutes in and I’m already resisting the challenge.

The clock creeps past one am. I know that my mind is keeping me awake, like an enthusiastic relative back from their travels, telling me stories and bombarding me with pictures.

It’s late and I’m still wired. Not so entertaining now, is it? Maybe being present would be a good idea, I decide.

My breath deepens. I sink into my body and snuggle into the bed. My mind escapes again. And again. I patiently allow it to shuffle back. My shoulders drop. I stop holding on so tight. And I fall asleep.

Perhaps living in the past and potential future is just another bad habit like biting my lip and fingers. Apparently it takes 21 days to make or break a habit. Thirty days hath September. So let’s see if this month bestows me with boredom or liberation and peace…

How will you challenge yourself this month?

Safe journey, Michelle. Rest in peace xxx

Safe journey, Michelle. Rest in peace xxx

Image: Author’s Own.

Wholehearted

I am yawning sleepily behind the wheel this morning when Stevie Wonder’s For Once in My Life comes on the radio. I turn it up loud and sing along as tingles fizz throughout my body. I drive delightedly into the beautiful green countryside, bathed in early September sunlight.

This is the kind of song that plays as the credits roll after a heartwarming rom-com, where the two lead characters finally shrug off their doubts and stubborn self-sabotage and swoop upon one another in the middle of a rain-shocked street or teeming airport terminal.

This is the kind of song that you only smile at when you’re in love. When you’ve found the person you believe is going to save you, crown you, give you the unconditional love you hadn’t even realised you’d been denying yourself. When you’re dazzled by the exciting debut of a relationship where colour and laughter are magnified and embraces and caresses come thick and often.

This is the kind of song you swiftly switch off when you’re not in love. The kind of song that grates on you as you peer out at lovestruck couples with envy and cynicism and a shameful knot of malice.

And yet, this morning, as a single woman, this is the kind of song that reminds me that life is wonderful, that I am happy, and that I don’t need a partner to distract or complete me. I am whole. Life is full. And I have all the love I could ever need.