Over New Year 2018/2019 I taught yoga on the Exotic Yoga Retreats Mexico retreat. It was a wondrous week of wellness, relaxation, nature immersion and fun. Many of those who participated in the week spoke of how their intentions for 2019 centred around being more present and aware in their daily lives.
It is often the case, especially when our lives get busy and work/family pressures heat up, that we lose our sense of presence. We become caught up in our dramas and deadlines and lose track of what is really unfolding. We also lose contact with what really matters to us and, often, our healthy habits and routines get thrown out the window in the process.
I have a close friend who describes her work week as a tunnel. She enters into it early on a Monday morning and only emerges on a Friday evening. Over each week she has no real recollection of what she ate and did aside from work, work, work. This ‘dark tunnel’ is an apt visualisation of what happens to us all when we lose our sense of presence. We are closed off from reality unfolding around us. Time passes in a haze. Imagine how many hours of your life have passed you by! This is tragic; each moment is unique, irreplaceable and precious.
Mindfulness – being present and aware in each moment – is like any other state of mind, it is habitual. it can only be introduced into your life if you cultivate it as a habit pattern. It cannot be forced. We can cultivate presence by making incremental and manageable small steps, that over time gain momentum and become effortless and continuous.
I’ve decided to collate some of my thoughts and teachings over the week on this topic into 4 simple interlinked points.
1. Choose one activity.
Choose an activity that has absolutely nothing to do with your work, or everyday responsibilities, that you love doing, and that does not require of you to be in front of a screen/mobile phone. Think of something that is a joy to do, and perhaps calls upon you to be creative and think differently. It must be something that is accessible for you start now. For example, dance / yoga/ tai chi/ walking/ painting/ pottery/ singing in a choir. Once you’ve chosen it, dispense with the expectation of yourself to be good at it. That is not the point at all. It is about pure enjoyment. You can be good at your work and other things in life, whether you’re talented at salsa dance classes or not is irrelevant. Now commit to doing this activity a minimum of 30 minutes a day, at least 3 times per week. If you can do it every single day, even better! When we do stuff without pressuring ourselves and with joy, we are immediately present. Its a 30 minutes to savour!
Now that you have chosen your joyful outlet, apply this simple directive to ensure you keep up doing it! PPSP:
PLAN – put the activity and the time you’re going to do it in your diary as you would a board meeting with your boss.
PRIORITISE – Of course, you can schedule your joyful outlet in the early morning, or late evening, or in your lunch break from work, but it is a meeting with yourself of the highest priority. It is non-negotiable.
START SMALL – Don’t expect yourself to immediately be dance champion in your city, practicing 2 hours per day. Schedule in manageable and achievable time frames.
PROTECT – Value this time and fiercely protect it. Make sure you spend at least 1 minute of this 30 minutes just observing yourself doing this thing you love. Just 1 minute!
3. Be OK with subliminal moments.
When there is a gap in your day of a few minutes, or a break in conversation with someone. Try to observe this gap and not react to it. Try to sit with the discomfort you feel when you stop. Observe.
4. Lean into feelings of discomfort.
If you catch yourself itching with impatience whilst getting ready for work, lean into this moment and try to stop reacting. It is usually when we experience discomfort, or a sense of impatience/dissatisfaction with life that we react and do things to try to not feel uncomfortable – to distract the mind. Over the day, try to lean into these moments and observe for a few seconds. Discomfort is the indicator that you are about to loose presence. It is actually a very valuable thing to feel. Consider it your presence alarm bell. Stop. Lean in. Don’t react.
I hope these are manageable and helpful points you can implement in your everyday life. Presence is the most fruitful gift, once grasped and experienced, it permeates and grows quickly.
Feel free to ask me any further questions, or share your experiences with me. I love hearing from you! firstname.lastname@example.org