I’ve had a lot on my mind lately.
I usually handle this by going to the beach and doing a “brain dump” in my journal, letting all those thoughts get on the paper and out of my head. Today I thought I’d try a “visual” journal! Felt pretty good. For the month of November, I’ve been trying to develop a new habit – meditation, at least twice a day.
My old idea of meditation was a monk sitting still for hours under a shady tree with a completely empty mind. Since starting my yoga practice April 2016, I’ve begun to learn and realize that yoga and meditation can mean anything to anyone. Some people enjoy the hot, sweaty yoga or the athletic, rigorous yoga. I enjoy gentle yoga as a complement to CrossFit; it allows me to slow down, focus on my breathing, and be in the present moment. Since I don’t always make time to attend class, I wanted to reap the benefits daily while at home. The biggest benefit to me from both yoga and now from meditation is being present.
My current meditation practice is just sitting cross legged on my bed with my eyes closed and my forefinger lightly touching my thumb with the rest of my hand open on my knees. After waking up to start the day, and after work before going to bed, I set my alarm for 7 minutes (recently upped it from 5 minutes!) and JUST BREATHE. As I was figuring out this whole meditation thing, I thought I had to have a completely empty mind and that I was “doing” it “wrong” if I drifted. I have since come to accept that thoughts are merely thoughts. Let them come and go. Don’t judge them. Don’t add unnecessary weight or value to them. Just let those thoughts be clouds that pass through the sky of my mind, my consciousness, my being.
Meditation reminds me that life happens NOW. Yes, my past has sweet, loving, and amazing memories that I enjoy daydreaming about or reminiscing over. Yes, my future has exciting, unimaginable, and serendipitous experiences yet to unfold. My past also has some embarrassing moments and growing pains. My future also has a lot of unknowns that can be exciting and/or terrifying, depending on how I look at it. When I catch myself worrying about or trying to predict/plan the future, I am not being present. Even if my mind is mentally in the past or future, my physical body, my spirit, my being, are all in the present. We can’t NOT be in the present, even if we try! So might as well roll with it. The only way to get to the future is to keep being in the now. Be present with a bunch of now’s all in a row, and I’ll eventually get to that future!
Being fully present is such a reward. This is where my past self has worked so hard to finally reach. This is where my future self will look back on fondly as the “simple days” before life got “complicated.” This is the only place to be. So be here fully and unleash it for all it’s worth. To go back to the image of the mind/body/spirit as the sky – we are ALWAYS the sky. It doesn’t matter if the past had some stormy clouds, if the present has thoughts of big clouds, or if the future will have some fluffy clouds on their way. We are not the momentary clouds, even if we identify with them. We are the sky itself. We can also think of ourselves as the deep, infinite ocean. It doesn’t matter if the past had some rough seas, if the present has some big waves, or if the future will have smooth and enjoyable sailing. We are not the momentary waves, even if we experience them. We are the ocean itself.
When it gets challenging to be present, such as when work gets stressful, the to-do list seems unending, or the shoulder pain doesn’t fully resolve as quickly as I wanted, I have to sometimes brute force myself to just do the thing, just be present. The words I illustrated help remind me that my only choice IS the here and now, so embrace it! I have a hard time fully clearing my mind, and I’m getting better at observing my thought clouds drift through the sky of my being. These words help me sink in to the moment. I breathe in thinking one word/phrase, and breathe out thinking another. I was actually going to draw arrows for the pairs of words but I just realized – technically they’re all interchangeable! My current favorites are to breathe in/breathe out thinking “peace/calm” and “abundant/gratitude.” It does involve some mental energy a bit, but when I eventually hit that sweet spot of calm relaxation, the words and their meanings kind of just melt into the moment.
Meditation also is not limited to just sitting still in your home. The calm, present, aware mindset can happen anywhere. I was at the gym recently working on my shoulder and noticed I had that meditative feeling! I was looking in the mirror observing my movements, and I was fully present, effortlessly focusing on my breathing, and completely aware of what I was currently doing. The meditative feeling can also strike when I’m in the car driving to/from work. It can happen with the radio on, when I’m fully engaged with the music and especially the lyrics, OR it can happen with the radio off (which I do and enjoy from time to time), when I’m fully allowing myself to breathe and observe the magic and miracle of our lungs breathing and our hearts beating. I haven’t yet consciously observed this meditative feeling while interacting with other people… but maybe it just takes on a different feeling. Maybe meditation can just be a way of life. And while interacting with other people, that feeling is just fully enjoying and basking in the moment and their presence.
The demands of daily life can definitely take their toll, especially if we don’t give ourselves room to recover and recharge. Yoga, meditation, and gratitude are all ways that help me recharge and ground myself in the present moment. We can unleash more from life if we are more present with it and with ourselves. I hope to continue to grow my meditation practice for the rest of 2017 and for years to come. How can you sink in to your the current moment today? This week? This Thanksgiving holiday?