It seems counter intuitive to have to "practice" being present, but this seems to be the nature of the human experience. If we let the mind go where it will, it goes everywhere but here!
We can become familiar with what kind of mind we have for the purpose of staying more present. In the present moment we are more steady and open to what is arriving, or what needs to be dealt with in a skillful manner. Not to mention, connect to the deeper meaning, beauty or invitation of the moment—this sacred moment.
Is your mind one that holds a plethora of discursive thoughts about the past? Or about the future? My mind tends towards the future most often, having struggled with anxiety for many years. My mind may want to catastrophize about what's wrong or could go wrong. The phone simply needs to ring unexpectedly and my first reaction is to think, "Oh, no, what's happened?" especially when it comes to my children or mother. I tend toward anticipatory anxiety when it comes to travel, deadlines, or big life events too. The practice of staying present has saved my sanity over and over again, and minimized unhealthy responses to what isn't true and may never be true.
That said, many people have minds that dwell on the past. They may swim in a sea of regret, anger or sadness minimizing the gift of the moment or its many possibilities.
It doesn't matter which kind of mind you have (and there certainly are other varieties, I'm simplifying here), only that you recognize it kindly, with warm-hearted curiosity, so you can know how to be with it in the most generous and skillful way. Ram Dass once said,"My thinking mind is a perfect servant and a lousy master." I tend to agree.
How do we invite the mind to serve us? I believe we invite it back to a place of neutrality—calm, equanimity— again and again. This is the practice. And it has been my primary practice for over 25 years now. My breath has saved me from my wild mind again and again.
Here is a practice for doing so yourself. I call it "Breathing for Well-Being." And here's an affirmation to go along with it. I hope it helps you stay connected to your wise self and sacredness of the present moment.
"Whenever I feel off balance, I bring my awareness to the earth, feel my feet upon its sacred soil, and allow its solidity to hold me in Presence."
(Excerpt below from Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook)
Last August when I was interviewing a prospective student for our Spiritual Guidance Training Institute, he asked if I would mind if he asked a personal question. Of course, I said yes.
"What is your current spiritual practice?" he queried.
It didn't take me long to answer. It's easy. My beingness longs for silence. To sit in the deep quiet of the world, this is a gift; a time of letting go of the need to listen, or to take anything else in.
Of course, there will always a bit of subtle noise. The world is not a completely quiet place, but whatever silence is there for me, I'll take it. My body-mind, heart and soul thrive in silence.
One time I visited my friend Anne. She lives in an intentional community in the forests of northern Michigan. I stepped out of my car to face a sea of green fern fronds, and heard absolutely nothing. Nothing. No noise. The silence was deep and powerful. This took me by surprise. It was so quiet, in fact, that the quiet itself made a sound—the sound of nothingness.
My soul was supremely happy.
Seedlings rest in the moist soil of Mother Earth's womb
*Excerpted from Awakening the Spirit Within
The Buddha is said to have advocated this: “Friendship is not half of the holy life, but all of it” (Samyutta Nikaya, 45.2).
I have been blessed in my life to have many spiritual friends, individuals who are wise and true, who continue to point me back toward my true self. One of the most notable is my "forever mentor for life", Sue Patton Thoele.
Recently, I had the opportunity to have a wonderful conversation with her around the topic of "The Feminine," and specifically the "Sacred Feminine." I felt the pull of the Feminine in my 40s, knowing somehow this was going to contribute to my healing, as well as defining the future of my spiritual path. Sue was one of my way showers on this path and I am deeply fortunate that she was willing to serve as a mentor for me as I wound my way "home."
In these times when it feels as if The Feminine is trying to rise, to transform and heal us individually and collectively, I reached out to her to have a conversation about this. This conversation (which she agreed to do via video so I could share it with you all) was a series of sacred moments for me; a string of pearly wisdom which reminded me of deep truth—and hope—even in these difficult times. May it do the same for you.
As Sue points out in this video, we are at a "crisis point" in our global culture. We need to activate and harness the Feminine within EACH of us to turn the tide; to create peace, healing, and harmony on all fronts. I believe Sue's new book, Strength: Meditations for Wisdom, Balance and Power is a beacon of light in these times.
In this particular video we talk about:
The Shadow side of The Masculine
How we can begin to bring the world back into balance
Empowering The Feminine to “save the world”
Your “Core of Knowing”
What is meant by “The Feminine”
What is meant by “The Sacred Feminine” and what role does it play in our personal and communal life
Some reflection questions for you to consider:
1. Do you believe you have strength? Do you feel strong right now?
2. How can you own your strength in a complementary, kind way?
3. How are you empowering yourself and The Feminine within you right now?
4. Are you in touch with “The Sacred Feminine”? If so, what is it calling you to
Meet Sue Patton Thoele
... is the author of numerous books including The Courage to Be Yourself, The Woman's Book of Courage and The Mindful Woman. She is a mother, step-mother, grandmother, former psychotherapist, and hospice chaplain. Sue and her husband, Gene, live in Colorado
Her new book, Strength: Meditations for Wisdom, Balance and Power, is perfectly timed and oh, so needed for optimal growth and healing presence for ourselves, others and for the planet.
This very moment, this sacred moment, offers up a host of opportunities to walk in the world with eyes and ears wide open; to pay attention to WHO is here right now.
This WHO may be someone we barely know a complete stranger; a dear loved one or a difficult person. If we are awake and aware, moving more intentionally through our day, we will notice the individuals who cross our path and what they might be here to offer us, or what we can offer them as fellow sojourners; what we can learn from one another.
There are no random encounters in a divinely ordered universe.
It is easy to love those who love us,
**From Awakening the Spirit Within
Early spring sunset over the wetlands of mid-Michigan
I feel so blessed to live in a state with four seasons. It is this turning of the seasons, each with its unique splendor, that helps me stay present. Each day there is something new to notice and appreciate.
This week despite cooler temperatures, tiny crimson leaves are unfolding on the maple tree in our yard. The grass is greening ever so slightly. Canadian geese fly overhead, honking their way home to Canada. It is these small indicators of "holy newness" heralding spring that invite me to stay firmly rooted in the present moment because I don't want to miss a thing.
In observing the well-time cycles found in nature,
*Excerpted from Awakening the Spirit Within.
On any given day, in any given moment, what brings you back to center, to the magic of the moment so you can create memorable “Kodak moments”?
Moments like these are often triggered by an event that stirs the heart: a tender word, an image, a musical score, a sunset, a child, one of nature's creatures. The list of what can "make the heart quiver in response" is long and varied.
No matter what that trigger is you can be grateful for it. Grateful that you were awake enough to pause and pay attention. In a pivotal moment of noticing, you return from living on auto-pilot to a place of wide-open awareness. And if you are truly paying attention, you may be lucky enough to embrace timeless beauty or boundless compassion—the privilege of being human and walking upon this precious earth.
Doing something you absolutely love naturally "raises your vibration" and lands you in the lap of well-being. You've probably noticed this yourself. When you are engaged in something you truly enjoy, there is no sense of time or struggle. Perhaps even conscious thought is absent. You are just "being" in the moment.
Because each of us is unique, we'll have different activities that raise our vibration. From mountain climbing to sun bathing to tending the garden, we can each find and regularly engage in activities that root us in calm.
Take time to ensure that you know what activities or hobbies immerse you in feelings of timelessness, purposefulness, and inner peace. Then, give yourself permission to engage in the—regularly. Remember that you are a "human being," deserving of leisure and enjoyment, not simply a "human doing."
When was the last time you allowed yourself to simply "be" with yourself, doing something you loved?
It is healthy to slow down, to give yourself well-deserved R & R—rest and relaxation. 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 a passenger on the train of life, you may often move through your days at breakneck speeds. And when you do, this speediness is felt in your mind as racing thoughts, stress and anxiety. It manifests in your body as health disorders —heart arrhythmia, headache, neck and shoulder pain, digestion woes, and more. When you slow down, you immediately feel better; your body and mind tell you so.
The only thing we really need do is slow down and listen—intently, deeply—and trust our body's wisdom. We'll instinctively know what to do or not do to be well. But first we must slow down enough to listen. Are you listening today?
I've been doing a lot of traveling lately. And by my own admission, I am not the best traveler. I like my home and the comfort of familiar surroundings. Over the years, I've tended toward travel anxiety (after a few harrowing experiences), and so it's supremely important for me to feel present within myself wherever I am.
I also believe that each moment is sacred and when we are traveling, the Sacred Itself can rise up to greet us in unexpected ways. When it does, if we are not open and willing, we can miss wonderful opportunities to connect, dabble in wonder, or dive into beauty. One of the best ways to ensure this sublime state is to "be here now."
“Be here now” is a term that came to the forefront in the 1960s with the teachings of Ram Dass, a Harvard professor who traveled to India to study meditation. His book of the same title stirred the hearts of thousands of people who longed for a calmer, less frenetic, more meaningful experience of life. I have adapted this term to mean not only a mindset, but an actual practice that we can use when we need to be fully present, both to ourselves and to our current experience. When we are fully present wherever we are, we feel more at ease in our body and in our world.
To practice “being here now,” bring your attention to your physical form. See if you can cultivate a feeling of actually being inyour body, fully inhabiting it; tuning in, as mindfulness educator Jon Kabat-Zinn says, to “the envelope of your skin.” Feel yourself simply being a living, breathing body.
Begin a slow and methodical process of bringing your awareness to each major body part, beginning with your head and moving down to your toes.
For each organ or appendage on which you focus your attention, take a complete breath (inhale and exhale) and say to yourself, “Be here now.” Pause and rest into that body part before you go on to the next one.
For example, when focusing on your thighs, feel them pressed into the chair. When focusing on your hands, feel them open or fisted. When focusing on your feet, feel them resting on the ground. By repeating “Be here now,” you will more firmly inhabit your physical body and be fully present in the world. Take your time, moving gradually from brain to bowels to the bottoms of your feet.
The point is to be fully present to yourself in your body in this very moment with no other agenda other than to be more fully you. Feel yourself just as you are: sitting on the bleachers watching a football game, lying in bed, sitting at your desk.
With time, with practice, you can “Be here now” within just a few minutes. This practice, like any other practice, gets easier each time you do it.
For me, "Be here now" practice is one of the very best things I can take with me wherever I go—portable peace! It helps me minimize anxiety and stay attuned to the Sacred within me and all around me because I don't want to miss a thing ...
Adapted from Portable Peace: A Weekly Guidebook
©2015, Janice L. Lundy.
All Rights Reserved
In last week's post I wrote about holding presence for yourself. Here's the thing. It's much easier to hold presence for yourself when you're feeling good and things are going well. It's not so easy when life gets difficult. In fact, it can get downright hard.
When I find myself struggling with a mood, dealing with bad news, or unexpected outcomes, I try to remember what a wise Buddhist teacher once wrote: "Life is so very difficult, how can we be anything but kind?" The being kind part, in this case, is pointed toward myself.
Self-directed kindness may take the form of compassionate breathing, stepping away from a situation, setting a healthier boundary, resting, taking a walk to move swirling energy from one's body ... there are so many ways to be kind to oneself. So many! Hopefully, we can pick one that can turn us back toward a little bit of equanimity.
But if we can't, there we are. We're stuck. In the muck. In the yucky feelings. And that is not a pleasant place to be. But it's part of being human, not perfect, and so when we are up against the wall of ourselves, let it be. In time, the feelings will calm down. They'll move on like storm clouds across a Texas plain.
Sometimes we just have to wait out the difficult moments. Kindly waiting, breathing, being. This can be good enough. No need to beat ourselves up that we couldn't get over it faster. No need to criticize, feel shame or guilt. We bit the hook as Pema Chodron teaches and what happened happened.
Let's not be afraid of difficult present moments. Let's meet them as best we can with gentleness, trusting that we can begin again when we feel a little more clear, a little stronger, a little wiser. Tomorrow is another day.
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.