Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Perpetual Struggle to Stay Present

This week I'll be sharing the following quote with my classes:

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.
~Thich Nhat Hanh~

I love this, and I agree completely.  My loved ones certainly deserve my presence, and so does everyone else I come across throughout the day.  The problem is, I can be really bad at offering others my presence.  I struggle constantly to focus my attention on the present moment.  Though I'm getting better at noticing when I've become distracted, I've got a long, long way to go.

When I'm at work, I have a lot of meetings in my office, which means I can see emails coming in as I'm sitting at my desk talking with others. I'm always tempted to glance at those emails, even though I know my attention should be on the people sitting in front of me. And I'm not always much better outside the office.

I live my life in a perpetual hurry, often racing from one commitment to another, and it's hard to stay in the present moment when you're always thinking about what's next. Thank goodness for my yoga practice, but what about all the times in between?

That's where mindfulness comes in. I find it especially helpful to slow down and pay particular attention to my surroundings. When driving in Denver, that's pretty easy, because most days you can see the mountains, and looking at the mountains grounds me. Taking a few deep breaths also works well, or sometimes I try to cultivate mindfulness while performing some kind of activity (filling my water bottle at work can be a nice break if I bring my full attention to performing that small task).  When talking to another person, I try to bring my full attention to what that person is saying.  I've got a post-it on my office computer reminding me to stay present,* and I've got a little Buddha statue in my car for the same reason (it also reminds me to be nice to other drivers!).** 

But I'm successful only a small percentage of the time. I like to think I'm steadily increasing that percentage, but cultivating presence takes constant effort, and much of the time I forget even to exert the effort. That's where my yoga practice comes in; I bring my attention to the present moment frequently -- if fitfully -- while practicing yoga, and hopefully what I practice on the mat translates bit by bit into the rest of my life.

Earlier this week, LearnVest published a post about slowing down and savoring your experiences. Something in the article stuck with me and has inspired me to change my behavior over the last few days.  The article says, "Rushed all the time? Slow down, and you'll be a nicer person." As always, I've spent most of my time running from commitment to commitment, but I've forced myself to slow down, and it's made a huge difference in my stress level and I'm sure has made me a nicer person.  I like that person much better, so I intend to keep it up!

Namaste.  Have a great week!

*I remember reading some time ago about a woman who keeps a note on her computer monitor that says, "Stay amazed."  I love that.

**Thank you, Nicole, for my little Buddha statue.  :)

1 comment:

  1. Hello.This post was really interesting, especially since I was browsing for thoughts on this issue last Saturday.