I was in Trader Joe’s with my good friend Patti and her son Jack. Jack is 8 and its always fun to hang with someone who you can fantasize about lego palaces with cookie dough moats. (I’ll have you know the palace and moat were my idea, but he vetoed the chocolate pudding moat and frankly I think the cookie dough idea was quite the upgrade). After we were dancing to the music on the overhead speakers down the pasta aisle we parted ways to go to our respective checkout counters and I had the following exchange with the woman manning the register. Alas I do not remember her name, but for the purposes of this post I will refer to her as joyful human.
Joyful Human: “Do you have a chip card?” (As I awaited the chance to swipe my card in order to pay for my groceries)
Me: “No just the swipey kind.”
JH: “It takes a long time, I don’t know why it takes so long.”
Me: ” I don’t mind waiting. If you are going to live in a civilized society, there will be waiting. I’m ok with it.”
JH: “yeah, but everybody is always in such a rush.”
Me: “But what for?”
JH: ” I have no idea.”
Me: ” Me either.”We both laughed and remarked on how the waiting is not such a bad thing, and frankly in the waiting is where real life happens.
Of course we all have hopes and dreams and responsibilities we must tend to, but if you are cursing a machine for not moving fast enough to get you to the next task, or wanting everything to rush by, what are you rushing to? Moreover, what makes any of us think that if we can rush through the mundane parts, or the parts we don’t like that the world will magically slow down for the good parts so we can savor and enjoy them.
Whatever we practice most is what we begin to excel at. So if we are always rushing through things to get to the next thing we won’t even be patient enough to enjoy the good stuff and it too will pass us right by. However, if we can practice taking in the things that we seemingly want to be over and truly be present, allow ourselves to take these moments as small stopping points, much like on a walking path in the park there are places to stop and sit without any agenda. So too, waiting in line, waiting at all, is really an opportunity to practice being where we are and savoring the moment. If I had been in a rush that day to do my shopping I would not have heard the music or started dancing with Jack. Frankly, I probably wouldn’t even have been with Jack and Patti if this were a few years ago since my flawed perspective on making progress in my work and life would have kept me from having the freedom to make time for friends on a random Thursday at noon. I would have seen it as a waste of time to take break in my day and not be PRODUCTIVE (I’ll elaborate on how much of a dirty word this can become in another post). I would have missed an opportunity to share a smile, a laugh, and a moment of mutual connection and clarity with a perfect stranger who is not more or less important than me. It was wonderful to get to look into her eyes and see a person who I could share energy and time with and truly be together even briefly.
How often are we rushing through life thinking the moment we are in is only a stepping stone to an outcome? In how many scenarios each day do you find yourself or others so focused on the future that we as a culture have created a majority of thought that takes us so far out of ourselves and the wonders that may be happening in this moment? This goes so much deeper than impatience when you give it some real thought. It happens in ways we often don’t even realize. Even activities that are eternal and natural lose some of their wonder unless we make it point to go there. Here are a few examples:
Breathing is such an autonomic bodily function, we often forget our own impact on breathing. From sitting to clenching our jaw, we can impact tour breathing in a way where we starve ourselves of a full breath. How often have you let our a huge sigh of release, when stressed or just needing a release only to realize you have non idea how long you have been holding your breath. Take a moment to sit with your breath. Notice its depth, its pace, if it has a sound. Take time to place you hands on your chest, your belly, your ribs, and notice where you expand and contract. Where the breath flows freely and where it may be restricted. Feel the sense of tension created at the joint of the shoulders, hips and even the spine as you inhale, and the sense of relaxation in those same regions as you exhale. Let your breath hold a sense of discovery and deep connection. This one is great because you can do it any time, anywhere.
EatingIt is so important to make healthy choices, but I hear so much talk about food choices and how everyone is focused on convenience. How often do you eat meals that are slow and fully enjoyed? When was the last time you chewed your food enough times for the flavor to change before you swallowed a bite. For many who don’t enjoy vegetables without lots of sauce, butter or salt, this is the missing piece. When was the last time you ate a meal alone, in silence or closed your eyes while truly tasting and feeling the food in your mouth. There are so many textures and viscosities and if we can eliminate the visual system we may find the smells and flavors are intensified.
When we exercise we are often so focused on calories, miles, pounds, reps, alignment etc. These are all useful tools of measurement and if you are working on improving your fitness and movement potential they are important. But if we overly focus on them we can lose the human element in human movement. What if you focused on how deeply or rhythmically you breath through you effort. What if you connected to the sensation of your heartbeat and got more sharp in knowing without looking at your heart rate monitor where you were intensity wise? (You could turn this in to a fun game to see if you were getting more connected by comparing your physiological sensation estimate with the actual measurement). What if you focused on smiling, and how that affected you footfalls when walking or running. What about frowning? There are other ways you can adapt this, improvise and play. You may be surprised at what you come up with. Just listening to the story your body may be telling you, especially if exercise is not something you find easy enjoyment with could be the key to breaking through limitations.
When we see a pregnant woman, many folks’ first question is “When are you due?” Could we instead ask, “How are you feeling?” “What’s the best part about being pregnant?” “How does it feel?” “What is the weirdest thing?” Or my personal favorite, “What is the most fascinating thing you have noticed as you cook your new human.”
When we engage in sexual activity we are often so focused on orgasm we forget all the many ways we can enjoy sexual energy and sharing in it. When was the last time you didn’t concern yourself with climax? Can you truly connect to the sense of touch, the smells, the sounds, laughing, moving, breathing? Can you be full present with the sense of your heart beat, or the temperature, the sweat on your body? Could you verbalize to your partner (or this all counts even if you are in a solo setting) how their skin feels. Some research has shown that breathing fast and shallow actually dulls sensation, especially for women, but so much of our media portrays sexual pleasure with panting like breaths. Could you breath slowly and deeply and see how that changes things?
A walk in the park
Often we can get so focused these days on or fitbits and activity monitors that we have lost the ability to just mosey, to de-stress and enjoy the scenery. Especially during this time of the year, when nature is showing itself in full display, take the time to slow down, use your whole self during you walk. Feel your footsteps as they contact, roll through, and push off the ground. Maybe even walk barefoot in the grass for a bit and awaken the insanely large amount of sensitive vibratory nerves on the soles of your feet. Its better than caffeine for a low energy moment! Better yet, take moment to lay somewhere, either on a bench or in the grass and look up. Take in the vast sky always above us, the clouds and watch as they drift by, check out how the sun casts varying gradients of light on the leaves and branches of the tallest trees creating a beautiful dance of color and contrast.
Getting clean is necessary part of living in a civilize world. You don’t wanna be the smelly one! How often do you take shower or bath with the intention only of getting clean and ready for the day, an outing or for bed, but allow it to be a very utilitarian chore? What if in the time it took you to lather, rinse, repeat, you connected fully to the sensation of how your hands feel as you suds up and scrub your hair and scalp? Noticing the contours of your body, the fleshier parts, the wrinkly parts, the bony parts, the soft parts the rough parts…basically being with all your parts and taking them in like and infant would. With wonder and curiosity. The quick shower or bath would take on a whole new color and tone and might even feel like an escape, when in fact the rushing of any such ritual is the escaping. Move with the moment like the water moves over the waterfall of you and you may find yourself wanting to plat in the tub all over again as if you never grew up in the first place. Jon Mayer put it perfectly: Your body is a wonderland!
These are only a few of the many ways we can tune in and be there fully. Your life is not a series of appointments and special events, to-do lists and tasks, efficient processes to create forward movement and momentum. Those are ways we structure the reality we choose to live in , but even while allowing those things to be a part of our world and making sure we maintain our quality of life and standards of culture, we can take a few moments to truly connect to the whole reason we even created this culture and way of life in the first place; to enjoy the gift that is this one life in this very moment to its fullest. When it comes down to it, the living of life happens when we notice life being lived. This is something always available to us. No one, regardless of class, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, or any other variable has any less opportunity every day, in every moment, to take a breath and fully be here now. The more mundane the moment, the more opportunity to find the wonder.
How do you find ways to truly be where you are and marvel at this life? Or at the very least to be patiently comfortable with things as they are right now? Please share your ideas and insights with us.