I used to think these words were cliché and obnoxious. I was a busy, efficient person - a real go-getter. There was no time for new agey nonsense.
Yet I have changed my tune over the past year. For thirty seven years, I was a manager, project director and task master in my life. These days, I am slowing down to enjoy being present. I am living, not just doing.
I am learning that while presence is paramount and life changing, it is not easy to attain.
It takes deliberate action and discipline to quiet the static in my head. My mind’s natural state is chaotic and frantic. In the past, whenever I needed to make a decision, it was my head that screamed first and loudest. I am coming to realize that there is also a gut and heart response worth considering. When I keep my head, heart and gut working together, I feel centered. I can feel whole rather than fragmented and uneasy.
So, how do I create more opportunities for balance and wholeness? Can I maintain a grounded and centered state in the midst of carpool, careers, cooking and deadlines? The answer came at me from every direction.
“Everyone is turning up Buddhist these days,” I told a writer friend. Every book, speaker and friend I talked to was mentioning meditation. Friends also recommended mindfulness to control anxiety. I decided it was worth considering.
I downloaded an app called “Insight Timer.” Ironic, right? Want mindfulness? Seeking enlightenment? There’s an app for that! I will not pretend that time spent in quiet is easy for me. This app offers hundreds of guided meditations; I like to think of it as training wheels.
Just ten minutes of meditation each morning help anchor my thoughts for the day. Words such as gratitude, love, presence, release, peace (more annoying jargon, I know) help me to set my intentions each new morning. I am liberated by the idea that no matter what my day might bring, I can always return to my breath. There is a respite in the space between the inhale and exhale.
As my day unfolds, the words that I planted in my heart and mind in the early hours become my North star. I am aware of my center and inner light. I take note of what knocks me off balance or drains my energy. I also notice certain people in my life who are the light bringers. This awareness can alter negative feelings and emotions that would normally consume my mind for hours or days.
One of my favorite analogies is about an empty boat. If I am floating and see another boat headed towards me, I might panic and become angry. When the boat bumps my vessel, I immediately look to see who I can blame for the crash. However, if the boat is empty, my anger dissipates. The truth still stands that another boat rocked my peaceful existence, but I do not have another person to target with my anger. My perspective is the only difference.
Meditation allows me to experience this realization on a daily basis.
My increased awareness spills out onto everyone around me. My children benefit from the pause and space between. I am slower to react, slower to anger. My husband and friends notice my newfound balance. When I do not allow circumstances to dictate my emotions, I can keep my day on a more even keel.
The empty boat teaches me to let go.
I need to relearn this lesson almost daily. I fall short and veer off course as a mom, partner, daughter, friend, etc. I default to a death grip on circumstances and attempt to control or manage every aspect of my world. But now I know there is a chance for a fresh start. Within each 24 hour period there are countless opportunities to take a deep breath.
I do hope to extend my practice. Ten minutes can grow to thirty, and eventually it can become a seamless part of my day. My yoga instructor is currently away on a ten day silent Buddhist retreat. I cannot imagine ever reaching that level of discipline, but I am fascinated by the concept. Baby steps. In the meantime, I can learn to appreciate and find peace in the beautiful space between.