I recall sitting on a bench in the Meditation Gardens of the Self-Realization Fellowship in Encinitas, CA in 1999, tucked in amongst giant palms and soft ferns, journaling these words:
Living in the present moment takes full effort and concentration.
I knew when I recorded them they were "a gift from beyond." I've carried these words in my heart for all the years since then and they never fail to point me back towards what matters most—to be here, now.
How easy it is for us to lose our way, to spend our energy unwisely, supremely focused on the past or the future. Granted, reflection on what has gone by is fine; reliving beautiful memories is wonderful too. Learning from mistakes, so wise!
Leaning into the future, exploring infinite possibilities, can be beautiful as well—the stuff of dreams—and we are definitely meant to dream.
But when we lose our equanimity and fall with misery into either camp (regret, worry, anxiety), we lose touch with the glorious gift of the present moment. This precious moment. This moment. This.
When I am able to stay attuned to this glittering jewel, fully embracing its one-of-a-kind gifts, the present moment holds everything—past and future, what's gone and what's yet to come—and in that generous holding, I am at home in the world. I can breathe. All is well.
The same can be true for any of us. For you.
Today, may you find comfort and ease in the present moment. May you be well, at home in yourself.
Photo courtesy of encinitastemple.org
The aphorism above became an entry in my book Awakening the Spirit Within. It's now out of print but used copies are available at Amazon.com.
Without exaggeration, it's safe to say that a tiny yellow book titled, Slowing Down in a Speeded Up World, pretty much saved my life. At the time, I was operating like the cartoon character, Speedy Gonzalez, the Mexican mouse, living on overdrive. Author Adair Lara was the first wise woman who gave me permission to get off the fast track and begin to live in a way that was more grounded and slow.
In truth, everything is speeding up these days. Even time seems to race by. That speediness is definitely felt in our bodies as stress, in our minds as racing thoughts, and in our emotions as overwhelm or disconnection. I do not believe we are meant to live this way. Moving so quickly we miss the magic and meaning of life.
Moving quickly also sends constant messages to our body-mind to be on alert (hurry! move! get going!), and what this does is create a continuous stream of cortisol moving through our body. Cortisol is a hormone that is released into our bloodstream when stress is activated. In regular doses, it's necessary and good for body health. Too much cortisol, surging through regularly, is not a good thing, and will ultimately take its toll on us.
The bottom line is we can't be healthy (body, mind and spirit) when we are always struggling to keep up. More and faster is not better. It is up to each one of us to find the pace of life that suits us best, and, more specifically, one that truly nourishes us. Going slow is not a bad thing, it's a mindful thing, and one that, when fully embraced, will allow us to experience the world in a whole new way.
Author Robert Gerzon explains in his book, Finding Serenity in the Age of Anxiety, that our bodies are not intended, nor constructed, for such fast-paced living. As passengers on the train of life, we often move through our days at breakneck speeds. This speediness may be experienced in our bodies as anxiety and other stress-related disorders such as heart arrhythmias, headaches, and insomnia.
When we do slow down or come to a screeching halt, we immediately feel the difference. Our bodies and minds tell us so. If we could just listen more intently to the signals our body-mind sends, we would instinctively know what to do (or not do) to be well. But, first, we must slow down enough for inner listening to take place.
You can begin slowing down by actually changing your pace. You can choose to walk more slowly—from the car, through the parking lot, into the store. You can walk more purposefully by looking up at the blue sky or at the green trees, instead of robotically downward. You can do things mindfully, with full and present attention, instead of multi-tasking. As Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh advocates, when you are washing the dishes, just wash the dishes.
Any practice that roots you more deeply in the present moment will help you become aware of how quickly you are moving through your day. It will also help you discern how satisfying this feels and if the pace of your life needs to be altered to meet your deepest needs.
Adapted from Living Gently with Myself: A 30-Day Guidebook by Janice L. Lundy
We’ve heard for some time now that meditation is good for us. We’ve heard stories of peace-loving masters and blissed-out yogis. For many of us, such an ease-filled state of mind seems impossible because of the clamorous nature of our thoughts. More times than I can count I’ve heard someone say, “No matter how hard I try, I just can’t meditate.”
On the surface, this statement may seem true. It may feel like hard work to quiet our mind, but only if we’ve made it so. It doesn’t have to be so difficult. What if we could adopt a gentler, more realistic approach to meditation? What if meditation were no more than a period of focused attention? A kind time of being present with ourselves as we are by experiencing our breath? That’s all!
Often we begin to meditate holding the energy of struggle. We’ve heard about “monkey mind” or how thoughts are like wild horses that must be corralled. Immediately, this creates an attitude of aversion. What if you thought about your mind and meditation differently? Here is how yogic teacher Ram Dass explains it: “Imagine a flower. The center is called your primary object of meditation. And the petals are all the thoughts that keep coming out from that center. The primary object of our meditation is our breath. We focus on our breath going in and our breath coming out.”
In other words, meditation is nothing more than focusing on your flower center. The thoughts that will naturally interrupt your focus are not clamorous monkeys at all, but mere extensions of you. Petals. Thoughts. Some are lovely, some are tainted; mostly, they’re just distracting.
Invite yourself to peaceful inner space by focusing your attention on the breath moving into your body in the solar plexus (lower abdomen), feeling it rising and falling. Or, focus at the base of the nostrils and feel “the whisper of the breath,” as Ram Dass describes it, entering on the in-breath, and another whisper of breath on the out-breath. The point of meditation is to hold your conscious awareness on that experience as best you can. And if you can’t (and you won’t, because your thoughts will wander away), you simply return your attention to the art of breathing.
This is beginning meditation, and despite what you’ve been told, it can be as simple as breathing and staying; staying long enough for a sparkle of serenity to be seen. As you continue to sit kindly, over time, you will feel more comfortable and confident in your experience. Glimmers of grace—inner peace—will steal in on little cat’s feet and sit down beside you. Breath by breath by breath.
Adapted from Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook by Janice L. Lundy ©2015.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, voted the most respected political and spiritual leader of our times, often speaks about how important it is to cultivate both rational wisdom and heart wisdom. Without a true blending of “mind” and heart, we have no real ability to navigate life skillfully. If we lack rationality, we might make foolish choices. Without inner knowing and compassion, we may harm ourselves, or others. In Eastern traditions, a blending of both is encouraged. Some have called this cultivating the “heart-mind.”
How well do you know your heart-mind? In the West, we have a tendency to focus on head over heart. We tend to dismiss the heart’s wisdom, or, at the very least, consider it to be of secondary importance. Perhaps this is because we have not spent enough time tending to the landscape of our good, wise hearts.
In the words of Bhagawan Nityananda, "The heart is the hub of all sacred places. Go there and roam."
Right now, connect with your good, wise heart. Do this by bringing your awareness to your head. Become cognizant of all the thinking that is going on in there. Now, bring your attention to your breath, specifically where it enters you at the base of your nostrils. Feel yourself breathing.
Resting in your heart center, what do you notice? A feeling of inner peace? Of gratitude? A sense of homecoming?
Ask your heart, “What would you like me to know right now?” Wait. Listen for its wise response. Reflect on the answer that comes.
Adapted from My Deepest Me: A 30-Day Guidebook
by Janice L. Lundy. ©2015
is a touchpoint. a resting place, a "remembering" of who we really are and how we can best live—kindly and compassionately with ourselves and others.
Janice Lynne Lundy, DMin
is an educator, interspiritual director/guide and retreat leader who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for more than twenty years. She is the author of several spiritual growth books, including Your Truest Self, My Deepest Me and Portable Peace., and is the co-founder and co-director of the Spiritual Guidance Training Institute.