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.

What Guides My Days

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I’ve been quiet lately. I haven’t been publishing much, and sometimes not even writing as much. It’s a time of reflection, renewal, development. Things are brewing. I’m working on an exciting new project with a friend that we plan to launch in early 2015. It’s almost the end of the year, and it has been an amazing one of growth and change. Here are some of the touchstones that are helping keep me grounded, grateful and present throughout these holy days.

Yoga
Meditation
Breathing
Exhaling
My daughter’s needs and demands
Baking
More yoga
Reading (currently, slowing making my way through Eleanor Roosevelt’s autobiography)
Going outside and looking at the sky and lake and clouds
Listening to the sounds of the moment… the girl’s giggle, the owls’ hoots, the breeze blowing through the trees
Eating mindfully
Writing
Journaling
Just being

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“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.

Living in the Present Moment… and Having a 5 Year Plan.

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Sometimes it’s hard to balance living in the now and having a long-term vision.

I live presently as much as possible—and thanks to years of practice and luck and having made certain choices in my life—I live presently oftenly.

However.

I occasionally feel a peculiar (internal? external? where is it coming from!?) pressure to change my geographical location.

I am happy where I am. We are happy where we are.

I turned into a we here in Guatemala. I, a stressed out school teacher, have evolved into a perpetually blissful and mindful writer and mama here at Lake Atitlan.

Yes, I have bad days. No, I am not enlightened. Not even close. But I am (we are) happy, safe, healthy and grateful for it all.

So, why leave? Well, the kid. Her grandparents and other relatives want closer proximity to our precious Jade. And we want to give them that, and her that. So we may wrench ourselves away from this luscious lagoon, at least for a few years.

But when I actually even contemplate living in Texas (and working in the public school system again), it gives me anxiety. Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico are other viable options. But really, the idea of change, of leaving this magical, beautiful place—even for another magical and beautiful place—freaks me out.

I realize that my attachment to Guatemala, and Lago Atitlan in particular, may not be altogether Buddhist or healthy. But I just can’t see leaving.

And of course, I’m here now. Living mindfully. Joyfully.

My quality of life is sky high. I have so many of the things I want around me: nature in the form of a large body of water, trees, flowers (so many flowers!), cliffs, hills, volcanoes; love in the form of my husband and daughter (I do miss my family and friends back home); freedom in the form of being able to walk or bike most everywhere, being able to buy fresh, inexpensive food at the market, being privileged and able to afford luxurious imported foods like tofu and almond milk.

I have become more and more a country mouse as I’ve aged. No more city living for me, gracias! To visit the city, spend a few days there, is fine. But to live? I need quiet. I need scenery. I need space. I need nature. I need calm. I need to be in the country.

But the Texas Hill Country? With my Colombian husband and Guatemalan daughter? Driving cars everywhere and shopping at supermarkets? I’m not too keen on that idea at the moment.

Ah. Back to the moment. I breathe in deeply. I sigh. I let go of my worries and five-year plans. I listen to the birds chirp.

The plans can wait. I am blessed to be here in this present.