Stay Present. It's harder than it sounds. I recently received my first paid crafty job. It's awesome. I am getting money to play arts and crafts! I am addressing envelopes for the invites to a wedding. It's become a big part of my daily schedule. I found that I have to stay very present when writing out the addresses. There is no room for daydreaming! I was addressing one of the envelopes to someone in Washington D.C. I started writing out Washington and then went into this daydream about how I had always thought about living in Washington. The state not the capital. Although I've thought about that too. But it's rainy a lot in Washington and Bean, my wonderful dog, isn't a fan of the rain. Next thing I knew I had written Washton and not Washington. Ah! To mess up so close to the end of the address too! Stay Present! Do not get hooked by passing thoughts. As I sat there reminding myself to stay focused and present when my mind started to wander I saw how it's all connected. This lesson in my crafty job is the same thing I practice when I meditate and doing yoga. We only have this moment right now. We can't go back and we can't skip ahead (as much as we may try). It's all right now. And yet we spend so much time collectively grasping for the future or holding on tight to the past. Life seems to be a constant struggle in one aspect or another between the past and the future and very little emphasis is actually put living in the moment, in the present. Why is that? When in the moment you are able to experience fully what you are doing and then even the smallest and seemingly trivial task is given more umph because there is attention directed at it. Life is less of a blur when you quit focusing on other stuff.
In yoga we can bring our awareness out of the mind and into the body to come into the present moment. By focusing on what the body is doing, the work of the bones and muscles, really feeling everything that is going on, hearing the breath, that pull toward the future or past drops away. The mind is finally quiet. There is a peaceful calm that appears in moments like this. It's beautiful. it may only last a second or even a microsecond but it's these small tastes of staying present that we are able to build upon and begin to lengthen.
Meditation is nothing more or less than a practice in training the mind. The mind has gone out of control, taking over everything a moving millions of miles a minute. Have you even been lying in your bed exhausted and just wanting to sleep and yet your head is zooming in a billion different directions? Wouldn't it be wonderful to slow it down and turn down the volume? While getting rid of our thoughts completely may not be possible, we can practice not getting so attached to our thoughts. I am reading a wonderful book by Pema Chodron in which she describes a meditation technique where the meditator visualizes their thoughts in these bubbles. (I always picture these huge soap bubbles.) When meditating and a thought arises, notice it for what it is, a thought, see it in a bubble, and label that bubble "thinking". Labeling thinking for what it is takes the hook out of it; takes the claws away from it so it no longer is able to take hold of your attention and it then drifts away in its giant soap bubble. When labeling your thoughts do so playfully; make it a game. It's not with judgement, frustration, or anger that we begin to become aware of our thoughts but with a sense of awe and playfulness. There are many times when I sit down to meditate and feel like I'm one of those bubble making guns. You know the ones that blow many bubbles out at rapid fire? I feel like if someone were to watch me meditate they could see all these bubbles coming out the top of my head. That's how many thoughts I have sometimes. Before reading Pema Chodron and trying this technique I found it difficult not to judge when my head went off on some tangent for what seems like hours without my knowledge. Now when I notice that I have gone off into some deep thought I think, "Wow. Look at all these thoughts! That one did a good job of hooking me." It's a game and therefore a fun practice to try. See how many thoughts you can label! Notice if they start coming slower with more beautiful quiet space in between them.
This is all a practice. It's called a yoga practice or a meditation practice for a reason. It's something that doesn't just come. it's something to work on, to play with, to repeat. and hopefully, with practice, the mind will stay quiet for longer periods of time. Staying present will become easier and more effortless. The tantalizing empty promises of the future and past will have less of a draw.
It's funny the way things come into your life sometimes. I tried something new in my meditation practice and everything seems to be a meditation now; a way to train my mind to stay present. Doing crafts has become a meditation and another opportunity to practice staying int he here and now. And then out walking Bean I found this:
Pretty cool. And when I did it, I noticed the sky just then, and the sounds around me. I found my way back. And smiled.