I was waiting in the volleyball pick up line for my daughter to leave the gym so we could head for home and then to a hot yoga class. I was listening to a book on tape when suddenly the sky caught my attention. It was moving. The whole sky was moving. I turned off the CD and sat in silence and began to notice all that was going on around me. It was an incredibly windy afternoon; the trees were flailing back and forth and the tall landscape grasses were often pushed vertical with the ground because of the intensity of the gusts. And the sky – the entire sky was blanketed by clouds that were being pushed quickly across my windshield.
As I sat there and took it all in, I wondered how many times I had missed this kind of show because I was thinking about the next meeting, the next project that needed my attention or my next vacation. Now granted, all of those things are important and should take my attention, but how often do I care to lift my head and be present? How often do I really notice what is going on around me? Even for a few seconds every few minutes?
I was asked to lead a guided meditation for 200 people this weekend. I took them through yoga nidra – conscious sleeping. This exercise simply takes one through a relaxation experience by relaxing the body one point at a time and asking each person to be present with their body and all of the sensations moment by moment. It takes incredible discipline to train the mind to both present and relaxed and yet it is very achievable –even to a novice. This simple exercise slows the inhales and exhales down to about 6 breaths per minute – the pace that allows our sympathetic nervous system to relax and be in a state that can heal. The afterglow feels magical, and yet science tells us that it is real and vital to good health.
A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to spend time in Colorado with the followers of Thich Nhat Hanh. This gentle, Vietnamese Buddhist monk has gathered together a group of followers on a path of mindfulness that has impacted the world. One seemingly odd thing we did was to eat in silence – all 1,000 of us ate in silence. What an amazing experience. Between each bite of food our forks were put back on the plate. That pace allowed me to really feel the texture of each bite, taste the spices and think about the number of hands it took to move the food from the field to my mouth. Gratitude. That was the overwhelming emotion. Gratitude. By being present I was able to notice the detail of not only the moment, but of my emotions.
“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Here’s to the next time and noticing the weight of my foot on the floor…