One of the buzz phrases of our current time is ‘live in the now’. I think Eckhart Tolle, the gazillion dollar best selling author of the book The Power of Now, has a contribution to that. Plus the rise of the self-help industry and the social media life-take over has meant we are constantly bombarded with this message of ‘be in the moment’. A magazine was launched with that very title.
Perhaps also why there is so much call, need and messaging on living in the nowis because of the overwhelm people are feeling. Wherever you live, whatever your job, we are bombarded in one day with more information than older generations were exposed to in a whole lifetime (yes, really). Whether it’s news, tittle tattle, advice, images, friends’ messages, links, memes, articles, tweets, and more news, plus environmental stimulation (lights, sound, activity) there seems no let up in the tsunami of information that comes through our senses on a daily basis. How to meet this constant wave? Well, just be here now and be present.
How do we do it, in this moment, right now? Especially if we are in the middle of something, or about to do something, or are dwelling on something that our mind deems important (whether it is or not is highly suspect), or are simply distracted by something we are drawn into?
I doubt any of us in the moment of realising we are not present pull out our portable meditation cushion, sit cross-legged and start meditating on our breath, chant OM, or repeat ‘I am enough, I am enough, I am enough’. (Or if you do – congratulations! Do let us know where you got your portable, collapsible cushion from and if it would fit into a handbag – alongside all the other things in there deemed important (thought for the day: my mind is like my handbag.. anyway..). Apparently, while the world (and its social media) is bombarded with meditation and mindfulness messaging, less than 10% of the population actually meditate.
This is where extending our understanding of meditation, or mindfulness, or yoga, or all three, comes into play.
You might have heard of the phrase ‘take your yoga off the mat’. But to my understanding, they didn’t have £100 mats in 5,000 BC, and the people who did yoga at that time were living their practice.
Perhaps you have been subjected to the instruction ‘be mindful’. But, according to Ellen Langer, Harvard’s first female professor of psychology and an expert in ‘mindfulnless’, the moment you contrive mindfulness is when you are not! I see her point… I’ve often said in classes that really what we are trying to do – be it in yoga or meditation – is to cultivate the conditions and context for ‘mindfulness’ or ‘yoga’ to occur.
Even saying “I’m going to meditate” sounds a bit silly when you really look delve into it. That’s like saying “I’m going to become at one with everything and dissolve subject and object of my reality”. (By the way, I still say ‘I’m going to do meditation’ – we humans do and say things that are silly all the time, but often it’s shorthand and saves us having to explain everything, including the mysteries of human kind).
The way I have come to view my practice of yoga and meditation nowadays is that there are times and designated periods of ‘formal practice’ – this gets it done. Clearing space between other things just for ‘to practice’. But the rest of time, whatever I’m doing – consciously or not – wherever I am – also gives opportunity for yoga and meditation.
I came to this realisation late in the day. After many years of dedicated, formal, full-on yoga practice, I realised that my ‘yoga’ in the studio was alright, but that patterns in life and me were slow in changing and, not quite keeping up with the challenges of the modern day. Perhaps if we lived in a ‘slower’, more thoughtful, less information-loaded time, my ‘yoga in the studio’ practice would be enough. But we don’t’, and it isn’t.
I upped my meditation game. Introducing a morning daily practice, either pre or after my morning tea. It’s a non negotiable (to use that awful American phrase, sorry). I also do a meditation in bed at night – this could be a gratitude based practice, or a body scan, or a little insight meditation (looking at my mind and allowing for what is there).
I also began to notice my breathing, and how my body felt, more consciously throughout the day. It’s almost second nature now for me to do that.
And, the biggie….
I took the step to notice (or try to) the impact my actions, words and energy were having on my environment – be that people, places or causes.
The result of extending formal practice into ‘life’ was not that I found bliss, peace and harmony all the time, or that I had fewer obstacles to face, but that something in me began to expand, soften and evolve. I see that ‘something’ as my consciousness. Over time, “connection’ found me – rather than me going out looking for it. This, Ellen Langer might say, is mindfulness.
So, whether you are in the 10% who do meditate or not, I thought I’d put forward five ways, that take less than a few minutes – sometimes just seconds, for you to ‘get and be in the moment’ during your daily life. Here we go:
1) Feel your Breath
As alluded to above, connecting to my breath consciously has become a staple of my daily life. To do this, feel the inhale as it moves through your body (it doesn’t matter how deep or shallow it is), and feel your exhale as it moves down and out through your body (ditto, doesn’t matter how intense or short it is). Do it once, or a few times.
2) Feel the Ground
Feel the surfaces that your body is in contact with.
If you are sitting, feel the chair through your sitting bones and backs of legs, maybe your back too, as well as feet your feet on the ground and wherever your hands are resting (table, lap, whatever).
3) Stop and Gaze
Stop what you are doing or interrupt a thought loop by taking your gaze to something ahead or nearby, ideally something not moving and fairly neutral (e.g. wall, plant, sky, object). Soften the eyes and just take in what you see.
4) Your Inner Affirmation
Silently inwardly say a phrase that brings you back to the moment. Say it firmly once to yourself or a few times. Find a phrase that works for you. For me, I use ‘Let it go’, and ‘I am here’.
5) Remember how it feels to Relax
Take it a few moments to notice any tight spots in your body or face, or an areas where there is a feeling of gripping. Let your attention go there and invite the place to relax. For example, the area around the eyes or in the forehead (which tightens when we think a lot), in the abdomen (the gut is a second brain), softening the shoulders (where we carry the weight of the world).
There. You can do any and all of those right? The world and its contents might be growing and spinning faster, but you can go inside yourself whenever you like and find that still sweet spot.
-picture credit: Let It Go, by Paula Flores