Do you truly see the snowflakes falling one by one from the sky? Can you see the white puffs settling on every branch that is exposed? When you touch the snow do you feel a heavy wetness that packs in your hand? Can you feel memories of your childhood and feel your body lying on the snow-packed ground raising arms up and down and moving legs together and apart because a snow angel is a glorious thing? The cold wetness that seeps in your boot because you didn’t seal up the snow pant to the boot well enough, and the laughter as you dodge a snow ball to the head.
Stepping outside to feel this mid-April snow fall is spectacular. There are birds chirping and flying about while there is a wintery blizzard before our eyes. I wonder if they are as confused as we are. I was going to name this blog post something like “Are you truly present” but changed it to “Are you there God? It’s me, Jenny.” after the Judy Blume book from 1970 Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. It just rolled off my tongue and I like the subtle connotation.
We were present as children. When I became an adult, I did not get the concept of being truly present and in the moment. I felt the days and even minutes going by in a flash with crazed busyness and constant brain overload. I packed as much as I could in to my busy schedule and my mind and body suffered. Being the best at everything was all I could think about. Excellent career. Fit body/dating material. Mom of envy. I definitely did not see the snowflakes.
Was I really listening to the co-worker, my child, the professor during class? Or was my brain jetting back and forth from topic to topic and thing-to-do to thing-to-do?
- Why did my mom keep telling me to go with the flow?
- Why did my boss tell me to slow down when I sent an email that wasn’t meant for the audience I sent it to?
- Why did my ex-husband tell me to slow down and get “laid”?
- Why was I annoyed when things didn’t go as planned or the way I wanted them to go?
- Why did a boyfriend tell me I am too blunt?
I wasn’t living with presence. I wasn’t present.
I have studied this concept for about 5 years. I knew when I had a full blown panic attack on a Monday morning while driving my kids to school, that I had to change something. (Panic attack for another story). Here are 5 things I do to be present – there are many more, but these are my most effective practices. I have not had a panic attack since.
This is the #1 thing that has brought me to presence in this world. My breath. Breathing. It seems so simple. In through the nose and fill up as far as you can, hold, let it all out until there is not a drop left in your lungs. Try it. It is euphoric. Many times I will lift my arms up high above my head, look to the sky on an inhale and then drop my arms to my heart in a prayer pose, on exhale. Your mind follows your breath. Notice it. Is it because we are full of life when we are breathing? Or because we are in a sort of meditative trance? What I know now, I wish I had known before; I wasn’t breathing at all. I was taking in enough oxygen to survive but I was not breathing.
Sure I was a hippy in college. Was I a yoga student? Not at all. When I practiced in my 20’s it was to get in better shape and had zero to do with my mind. I literally wanted to run out of class during Savasana so I could get on to my next task. If that doesn’t tell you how I was living, I don’t know what will.
Savasana is the final pose of a yoga practice meant to completely relax every muscle in your body, calm your mind and reflect on your practice. You are fully awake, but in complete silence and stillness. A quote from Karson McGinley of The Chopra Center says this:
“With the world moving so quickly, cultivating the art of Savasana is more valuable than ever. Our society tends to place greater value on speed and productivity; learning how to do nothing is a skill that can help you become more productive when you need to be. Savasana helps us learn how to completely surrender, stop fighting the clock, and make space for peace and harmony to fill the soul. Savasana is like turning off your computer when it’s acting up. Once you reboot it, the computer often has greater functionality.”
I now practice yoga regularly. I do it for the mind-body connection that I am awarded. The fluid flow of one pose to the next with your breath along with the challenge of getting better and stronger, make it the perfect outlet for quieting a busy mind and to practice presence. I literally have done a forward fold and have teared up. I won’t go in to that but there is a serious connection to emotions during a yoga practice.
What is worse than someone you are talking to, whether a co-worker, a friend, or a family member, asks you a question and as you respond, they drift off to something else. They drift to their phone, in to their own mind, or to something else supposedly more engaging to them. Knife to the heart, is what that is. They are not listening to you. They are not present. We have all been there as the sender and the receiver. Practicing full presence when engaging with someone else (or others) is a very important inter-personal skill and incredibly important for presence and authenticity.
I walked in to a co-worker’s office one day and he asked about a family matter. I felt really honored and loved that he cared enough to ask. When I started to tell him, he was gone. He was looking at his phone and heard nothing I said. I know because I walked out of his office mid-sentence. Not only does listening make you present for the other person, it also allows you to practice your own presence, focus and connection. Try it. When you are talking to someone, don’t think about what you are going to respond. Listen. Truly listen. Put down your device or anything else you are doing and just be in the moment.
Delegate. Get a cleaning service. Get a lawn and snow removal service. Only have one credit card. Use auto-bill pay. Get a home delivery meal service. Use the Dash Button from Amazon. De-clutter. Take a breath and be in the moment and don’t worry about what isn’t getting done. If you don’t want to pay for services there are free ones and easy ways to simplify including organizing your to-do list, calendar and finances. This topic would be an entire book or post on its own but I work every day to simplify so I can be present with everything else in my life and enjoy a bike ride around the lake with the sun gleaming on my face, without thought and worry or constant archiving of what I have to do.
When I say notice, I mean really notice. It takes a lot of practice to get yourself to be in the now and noticing all of the little details of life. The snowflakes. The birds chirping. I was on a run the other day and during the entire run I took myself out of my mind and practiced noticing everything around me and in my body. The smell of the puddles from snow melting, the many different bird chirping sounds and the sound of pecking on a tree, from a woodpecker. Just the sound of my breath, my shoes hitting the gravel-grazed pavement and the birds. Once in a while there was a breeze through my ears. This run kept me in the moment. I just noticed everything and did not think about work or life to-do’s. 30 minutes of pure presence.
You can live life one second at a time and be thoroughly fulfilled if you slow down and admire every detail in front of you. Snowflakes.