1. Deep, slow rhythmic pace It grounds me. It takes me out of my thinking mind and I embody the present moment and smile. 2. A sense of control I can hold my breath. I can lengthen my exhales more than my inhales. I can whistle. I can sigh. I can sing and even make myself yawn. 3. Tight and constrictive In those moments of anxiety or hurt, my breath is shallow and tight like a sharp pain in my chest. When I try to take a deep breath, I feel my chest constrict and tighten like a sob about to break free. 4. Connection All living beings on this planet breathe be it with lungs or gills. We all enter this world and take our first breath. We laugh and cry together. We can chant OM. We can sing a melodic tune. 5. Conduit to peace When I remember that I can control my breath, I create the optimal route to peace with just one breath. I could argue with my words or ruminate an imagined reply in my mind. Or I can breathe and let it be.
What is but a moment in time? This precise moment to be exact. When the child smiles and runs through the grass. When the old folks rock on their rockers. When the mouths of the hungry, the sad, the oppressed, the joyful all open wide in reply. It is frozen in time. For just a moment. Then it is gone. It can never return or be what once was. The hunger, the anger, the weeping and the joy have all moved on too. Like little rebirths and deaths, we go through the days. The events, the thoughts, the feelings are never exactly how they were just a moment ago that’s past. Can we feel it? Can we express and not hide it or smile it away hoping the feeling will once again be buried? It’s a shallow grave. A rug that’s become a mound of unfelt feeling. The rawness like a struck a nerve, although hidden, is quite easily stung. Sparked to right where the emotion began. Yet it may be stronger, expressed and felt differently, it needs to discharge. Energy back to the earth. Back to the grassy edge, the hedges, the puddle, the cloud and the rain. Then we can be truly free. Free to be me and free to be you. Not bogged down by weighty old emotions like baggage of lost voyagers that have long passed on and whose items have fallen out of fashion. Out of use. We can have a rebirth each and every day with each inhale that fills our lungs with the fullness of life.
When I am still and quiet my mind, I take a look up at the grand sky. If there are clouds they often take shape in my mind’s eye. There is a dragon with its pointed tail and craned long neck. There is a bird with wings that seem to engulf and span across the whole sky above me. I feel so little like I’m a worm in the earth about to be gobbled up as prey. Then I see sea creatures. Mermaids dancing with their magical tails as fish clamber around to find their own space. I breathe deep. I try to share what I see. My favorite times are when my mind is busy and away with thoughts and then I catch just a glimpse of the sky and the cloud is shaped like a heart. Finding hearts randomly around nature is my symbol. I’m always grateful of the reminder that I am love and loved whether it’s the cloud up above like a large heartbeat in the sky or the dried up and grayed gum on the sidewalk that shares a similar shape or the lotion just pumped onto my palm. And the heart makes me smile and pause for just a brief moment. That’s all it takes really. Though the clouds and heart shapes may disappear, the image is contained in my mind and my heart. I am grateful. Alive. I am not so small. When I am present with the sky or the sidewalk, I am in awe and connected to the universal magic that is always surrounding us.
Future tripping is not really a gamble but the stakes are our very lives.
The future lives in the unknown and sometimes we get that dopamine hit like the lever of a slot machine. Will today be my lucky day? Will I go pro or go home? So we go outward, discarding the mundane and instead wishing the day away to a future point.
We end up not appreciating how good we have today: Our lungs to breathe. Our hearts to beat and pump. Life force coursing through our veins. Our loved ones here today to share a meal or a hug. To think it will be better or I will feel complete or more organized/fit/healthy/alive in the future makes us miss the target. The point is that today is all we have.
Dreams and goals are important and we shouldn’t dismiss them and not have them. Just don’t let them crowd our vision of today. What small steps can I take today? What future do I envision? Why does it hold power and energy or attention over right now? What can I do this very moment to bring that vision closer to my reality? Ask questions. Take stock. Be still and listen to the guidance.
Is wishing away the potty training stage and loads of laundry that goes with it worth not being present to see her smile? Her full sentences form, her blooming creative play, her, “Momma, play with me?” This is where I am and the future is uncertain. Someday it will go by all too fast and be a distant memory. Today I’m in her life. We share the same roof and space.
I can wish the clutter and loud chaos away or I can see the bigger picture. We have the means to acquire all these awesome toys that allow us stretch our imaginations and connect with each other. I can witness how she’s finally grappling with her own body cues to use the bathroom on her own. And as in all learning, there are missteps and accidents happen. And I don’t want to miss it for a moment.
Hedging our bets on an unknown future robs us of what is happening in the here and now. I will breathe and I will play, if only for today, because that’s where I live.
Who knows? We put so much energy and attention focused on the future: planning, striving, endless to-do’s and tasks that we lose the entire weekend. My word this year is “Linger.” And even I need a reminder. I get future-tripped up in the anticipation of an upcoming retreat, a potential job opportunity, or perfecting my dream vision that my energy gets sapped from the here and now. How can I linger over this cup of coffee when I’m all prepared for an event that might not happen at all?
There is no refund or credit on that time and energy spent and now it all comes down to the wire. Will I get it or not? And how can I prevent my energy from being wasted again in the future? Do I need a grounding mantra that will gently nudge myself before I get full-on lost in thought, planning, fuming, etc. on whatever it is?
And this happens when I get stuck on past events too. I replay and rehash them. I imagine scenarios with a different outcome and my correct and witty response. I make excuses to myself to relieve the miserableness, horror or embarrassment of it all.
Is it just me?
We are all hurting. If there’s one thing we share in common, it’s that we all experience pain and/or suffering.
Our thoughts can hold us hostage and sabotage our present moment. For example, when I got my new job, my husband suggested, “Let’s spend some time celebrating!” In an instant my mind shifted into forward thinking. There’s childcare needs, a new wardrobe to purchase, and a general fear of the unknown. That moment to celebrate was ever so brief. Sweet but not fully experienced, not completely felt. In hindsight, perhaps I should have taken a moment to savor the excitement and opportunity and let a feeling of gratitude set in.
It’s over too quickly and we can’t get it back. I had a similar experience when my 19-year old cat Max died. My mom and I never followed through on our plan to memorialize him. We were in a state of grief and I had to take care of my toddler. We didn’t get the chance to properly mourn him. As a result we suffered on our own and grieved alone. Instead of holding each other, we kept it inside. A few years have passed since then. And I don’t know if we will ever be in that space again.
Our thoughts can run wild if we let them. They can rob us from the rich and healing experience of being fully present: to how we are feeling or what is happening in this moment. Now I try to pause when I notice my mind going rampant or rehashing the same story over and over. I take a deep breath and think, “I’ve already spent enough time, space and energy on this.” I soften and I take a moment to notice my surroundings. “How is this story, forward or past thinking distracting me from the NOW? Is it causing me undo stress?” Of course, it is.
Then I ask the question, “How do I want to feel instead?” Usually I want to feel relaxed, present and connected to my family.
And the final question, “What can I do to make that feeling a reality?” Usually it’s taking a few box breaths or utilizing one of my self-care tools. I’m a work in progress. There are days when I forget my tools and I get lost in thought and distraction. I lose my grounding and connection to myself and the present moment. I’ve accepted the fact that I’m continuing to learn and re-learn what works for me, and I will always continue to do so.
Now it’s your turn. How do your thoughts affect you? Are they distracting you from what’s going on right now? Are they causing you undo stress? If so, how do you want to feel instead? And what can you do to make that feeling come true?
I send you peace.