Today, I am happy to offer a Pure Presence Podcast.
This subject has been on my heart quite a lot lately. It's about how we enter our day—with thoughts and feelings of anxiety, overwhelm or worry (especially about the events and concerns of the day), rather than ease, hopefulness, or gratitude. Offering presence to ourselves is paramount each and every day, and we can do so by creating an early morning routine that is gracious. I call this "The 30-Minute Wake-Up Call." I hope you find it useful!
p.s. And for you newshounds, I offer some pointed advice on when during the day to watch the news. :-)
Listen here (18 min.)
It was 1994 and I was in the midst of a health crisis when I discovered the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh. Or should I say, his teachings found me. To this day I believe that his book, Peace Is Every Step, saved my life. Since then, Thay has been the wisest of teachers for me and I always keep one of his books close at hand.
"In the rush of modern life, we tend to lose touch with the peace that is available in each moment."
All those years ago, I had lost my peace. In fact, I didn't know how, in the midst of a crazy busy life, peace was even possible. Chronic illness and anxiety had taken over. My life felt completely unmanageable. Yet reading Thay's words again and again created an opening and somehow, miraculously, the light broke through and healing began.
Relief poured in from the simplest of teachings:
You only have to do one thing at a time.
This teaching sounded incredulous to me. The relief it brought was remarkable and many tears flowed. This concept--doing just one thing with full and present attention—marked the beginning of my (now) nearly 30-year-journey with mindfulness.
Lately, I've been returning to one of his most well-known Gathas. It holds a potent invitation for me, for living in these times when presence for one's deep self may be difficult to access. There is so much that can pull us away from our innate peace.
Breathing in, I calm my body
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
I understand during times that feel chaotic and uncertain, breathing out with a smile might be difficult. Even more challenging might be embracing this moment--just as it is—as a wonderful moment. But I do it anyway. You can too.
Why is this moment wonderful? Because we are awake, we are here, we are alive. What a gift it is to be alive! Thay writes:
“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”
This morning I engaged in a lovely practice: honoring Thay's invitation to be fully present on the earth with peace in my heart, no matter what is happening in the world. I sit with a photo of one of his works of calligraphy. I randomly open the book I've chosen to any page and allow its ambient message to flow through me. Today, it was this:
I've adopted "meditation calligraphy practice" for many reasons but key among them is to stay close to Thay's wisdom even though he has made his transition from this earth. Since his passing I feel his presence and the impact of his teachings more than ever. It is as if, in his death, his essence exploded into a trillion rose petals floating through the atmosphere, showering us with loving presence and compassion. Indeed, it is a miracle to be alive, to be the recipient of this. And, hopefully, to pay the transmission forward.
May it be so for you. May Love hold us all ...
For me, the ability to hold presence for oneself and for others is firmly rooted in good self-care. If my self-care is in place, it's much more likely that I will feel calm and centered, and better able to hold presence for someone else. When I've not taken good care of myself I am impatient, crabby, and easily exhausted. Does this sound familiar?
During this time of pandemic, and in this strange time of what I call "re-entry," it's difficult to know what is the right thing to do; what is the best thing to do. This can cause ongoing feelings of distress. 'Do I stay in or venture out?' 'Do I meet up with my friends like I used to, or do I continue to stay away from social gatherings?'
No matter what your answers to these questions might be, beneath them all remains the need to continue to ground yourself in good self-care practices. It's vital that we stay faithful to what nourishes us, keeps our minds calm, and our hearts open.
I read this article today and felt it contained such good, basic information about self-care that I wanted to pass it along to you.
Even if you don't have strong indicators of depression or anxiety, the 10 practices cited here can help you feel stronger, steadier, more present.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that, for the most part, I have been staying faithful to these practices. Of course, there's always the off day, but I do notice that I've maintained my equilibrium most of the time the last 14 months. I even took journaling back up a while ago. It felt good to put pen to paper and write about what I was feeling and experiencing. I talk to my spiritual director every month. I get solid sleep, try to eat healthy, go for brisk walks, and color (my hobby). I prioritize getting out in nature. (I have to engage in personal hygiene because I am on Zoom a lot!) I do not drink. I try to be mindful in all that I do. Mindfulness, very truthfully, has been my saving grace since 1994. Without it, I am prone to anxiety and worry.
I share these thoughts with you not because I am trying to get it all right, but because I have found that these 10 things really do work to keep us well and fully present—especially when life is difficult.
When you look at the list of 10, what do you notice? What are you doing well? What could be improved upon?
Let's remember that we can make wise choices moment by moment, and that at any time we can begin again. Let us be patient and gentle with ourselves as we do. After all, practice makes progress! And all of these things combined help us be more present to ourselves and capable of offering presence to others -- which is a very wise and loving thing to do in today's fragile world.
Now that the coldest weather has lifted, I am determined to take a mindful walk each day. Though I admit, sometimes my walks are not mindful; mindless is more like it. My mind wanders. I plan. I drift off and get stuck in old conversations or thoughts about the future. Presence to self eludes me.
And then I remember. It is time to be here now. To be fully present to myself and this precious moment. My phone is off. I vow to do nothing but walk, just walk.
One step, then another. One breath, then another. Easing into the rhythm of walking and breathing. Feeling my foot meet the pavement. Noting bird song in the distance. Beauty to my left and to my right. Be here now.
And just when my mind begins to meander once more, there it is, looming up in front of me. A sweet smiley face someone has taken the time to draw on the walkway. "Hello, I see you," it says. "Do you see me?" And I do. I am grateful for this humorous reminder to come back once again, to surrender to walking.
"Just walking" is one of the best ways I know to offer presence to myself, especially on a Corvid-19 day when so many thoughts and emotions can press in.
The same can be true for you, for any of us. May our walking bring us back home to ourselves.
From My Heart to Yours
Today, I have a gift for you, a short, guided practice (MP3). I call it "Inner Smile Practice." It's perfect for walking, or when you're at the grocery store, or whenever you feel the need to be more present to yourself and others.
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Dr. Janice Lynne Lundy (PsyD, DMin, MPC)
is The Gerald May Professor of Spiritual Direction & Counseling at the Graduate Theological Foundation. She is an interspiritual director/mentor, educator and counselor who has been pointing people back toward the Sacred for nearly thirty years.