Presence, Patience, Simplicity

Mindfulness. It’s become such a buzz word, much like “yoga”. And yet, the practice is popular and now mainstream precisely because it offers simple methods for cultivating greater awareness of the present moment.

In other words, mindfulness empowers us to more fully live our lives by fully embodying our experience from moment to moment. Not escaping into illusion or delusion, addiction or habit-patterns, mindless scrolling or empty gossip.

Mindfulness, heartfulness, pure consciousness, heart-centered awareness. Semantics. Yet words can help. Concepts can be of assistance. Eventually the words, techniques, concepts, ideas, opinions, memories and plans for the unknown future fade away. There is just this One Love.

Yet alongside this miraculous beauty is a dark shadow side, a seedy, shady, sad, sick side. We must bring light to this shadow and deal with all the -isms our society has created, all the borders and security measures and rules and regulations and political correctness and the racism, sexism, patriotism, narcissism, consumerism, capitalism, careless shortsightedness and destruction of Mother Earth.

Mindfulness, you see, is not all lollipops and rainbows. It encompasses all, everything that arises and passes away. With practice, we learn to see things on a continuum, within a vast spectrum. We expand our consciousness and raise our vibration. We tune in more and more with the One Love of All That Is. We serve others, giving of ourselves for the betterment of beings less fortunate, less lucky to have been born into wealth or at least not into poverty.

Present-moment-awareness is gorgeous and simple. There are many anchors that can bring us back right here and now when the mind wanders. Of course, there are also times when it is good and helpful to contemplate and reflect on the past or plan and set goals for the short and long-term future. Most of our days, however, are ideally spent focusing on the present, being kind to ourselves and others, cultivating compassion, peace, balance and wisdom.

By paying attention to whatever is occurring in the present moment, we can connect with a sense of gratitude for the gift of breath and life, a sense of wonder for what this day or experience is here to teach us, and a sense of open-minded curiosity for what adventures await us next.

Clear Lens Moments

volcanoclouds

It was one of those days when the air was washed and polished like a lens. Everything was crisp and clear. Springtime in California.

I could see each individual leaf shimmering on the tree and was simultaneously taking in the whole tree in its magnificent glory. The colors were more vivid, the wind more meaningful, each breath poignant.

As I drove away from Green Gulch Farm, I felt a natural high like none other. Each moment, whatever it contained, was perfect, abundant, simple and miraculous. It wasn’t until leaving the Zen center grounds after my five-day personal retreat that I realized how much more mindful I had become. I was ultra-sensitive to my surroundings, noticing the details, savoring the natural beauty all around me, more embodied in my body than maybe ever before.

This blissful state of heightened awareness lasted for a good week or two. That was April, 2004. Now, with the gift of retrospect, I can pinpoint a few other moments in the 13+ subsequent years in which my formal practice seeped silently, secretively into my everyday life. Tiny moments of illumination. That time in my bedroom in Guate when I was doing a standing backbend and the epiphany hit me. A voice that spoke from deep within said, “Move to the lake.” I cried tears of sudden joy, because I knew then that Lake Atitlan was where I was meant to be.

Another clear lens moment occurred January 6, 2013, as I was sitting on a hospital bed, listening to Across the Universe on repeat on my headphones, having taken the doctor’s orders to calm down so that he could perform the unexpected c-section. Jai Guru Deva, Aum…. nothing’s gonna change my world/nothing’s gonna change my world. Limitless undying love that shines around me like a million suns… I shifted from fear-fueled sobs to a quiet, tranquil state. When I saw my daughter’s little face and perfect head full of dark brown hair, my mind was empty of anything but love (and morphine of course; thank you, epidural!).

The air was washed and polished like a lens, too, one midsummer’s day in 2001. I was sailing on Lake Travis with my family. I could see the water and sky, could perceive the spectacular sunset and feel that I should be appreciating its beauty and the gift of my life, but depression absolutely blocked any absorption of gratitude, happiness or even okay-ness. Depression distorted the lens, making everything blurry and hopeless.

My most recent clear-lens experiences have been less monumental, more everyday. The little moments, the frequent pauses when I can sit still, take a sip of tea, look around and soak in the beauty. The gorgeousness of the lake and volcanoes never fails to astound me. I can even (sometimes) see the beauty in the disarray in which our household is often found. The stuffed animals lined up in the hammock, the pile of storybooks by Jade’s bed, the muddy paw prints our dog leaves on the wooden planks of the patio.

I am eternally grateful to Guatemala, every human and animal, stone and flower, fire and body of water that has crossed my path in my time here. The breeze has cleansed the air and polished my lens in such wonderfully unexpected ways.

My Life Is Over.

Everything suddenly erupted at once like an irate volcano.

A summary. I had my worst fight ever with my husband. I saw clearly that I am my own worst enemy. I took actions which led to me being fired, effective immediately, from my teaching position. I gave the gossipers in my community plenty of new grist on which to mill.

I’m feeling the urge to hide in a cave until Mercury goes direct on February 11. I’d like to go on to the Himalayas, but I know that isn’t the answer. The wisdom of no escape. Plus, logistics. And money.

This week, I have sought (and found) solace in the city, of all places. Guate. My former home. My aversion. I am grateful for you now, Guate. I’m sorry for all those mean things I said before.

I cannot be at home right now. Yet home is wherever I am.

I am living in paradise and paradox. I need space and time. I need to sleep, shut down, restart. I need to connect with advocates, friends and strangers. I need to remember all the amazing spiritual teachings I have been blessed to encounter in my precious human life so far. I also need to forget them.

My schedule is suddenly wide open, which rocks, but my bank account won’t be refilling itself automatically anymore, which is worrisome.

It’s okay. Things are both falling apart and coming together. Meltdowns lead to breakthroughs. This I know for sure. It ain’t my first time at the rodeo, as y’all say in Texas.

In the wake of my personal turmoil, a dear friend reminded me of something I shared with her in yoga class years ago, a variation on the traditional metta aspirations. May they be of benefit.

May all beings feel contented and pleased,
May all beings feel protected and safe.
May our physical bodies support us with strength.
May our lives unfold smoothly with ease.

clinging

“This.”

{Read it on elephant journal!?}

I’m not fashionable. At this point, I’ll wear anything that’s reasonably clean, and my ideal outfit definitely includes yoga pants. I don’t wear cosmetics or shave or put “product” in my hair, other than shampoo. I have four pairs of shoes and three of them are flip-flops.

I am, however, verbally fashionable. I notice and analyze language, its cadence and connotation, both spoken and written. I notice pop culture jargon and verbal trends that spread like wildfire across the web. For example: Punctuating. Every. Word. For. Emphasis.

More recently, the youth have started in on “because.” Creating intentional fragments by placing a single word after the conjunction, as in captioning a selfie of you and your boyfriend with “It’s date night, because love.”

Have you noticed the latest fad of announcing that something is amazing and should be read/seen/shared using the simple command: “This.”?

It’s all the rage. I personally have never posted “this.” as my status despite the fact that I read “this”-worthy articles almost every day. I guess it feels too silly, like I’m trying to be a hip millennial rather than an aging member of Generation Y. (Hey, at least I’m not a mommy blogger; no offense.)

However, in pondering “this.” and its new usage. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is a fabulous and succinct mantra for daily life practice.

When you’re about to bite into a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie. This.

When you’re curling up in bed to reread a favorite book. This.

When you’re cradling a sweet, tired little human or fur babe. This.

When you’re steaming with road rage while sitting in traffic. This.

When you’re pushing back into downward dog pose—and maybe feeling tired or tight or achy.This.

And on and on. Not just the good, happy and share-worthy but also the bad, the ugly, the true.

As John Steinbeck advised, “Don’t be ’a writer.’ Be writing.”

In that case, the most important thing is what I’m writing right now. The most important thing is what you’re writing right now. The act of writing, the act of living, the simple, magical act of breathing.

This body contains truth and the essence of goodness. This mind is baffling and beautiful. This life is splendid and sad. This reality is not something to flee or escape by projecting into the future like a bored third grader—what’s next? What about after that?

This is where it’s at. Don’t be a solid, stuck individual, be a flowing, living, loving being.

Pause. Unplug. Experience “this.” Because. This. Is. It.