I remember this moment with such clarity.
It was an early winter's evening and I was in my kitchen chopping and dicing and measuring and pouring, preparing chicken masala for friends who were coming over for dinner. I think the reason I remember it so clearly is because cooking (combined with having dinner guests) was typically something that could easily send me into a tizzy. But, in this particular moment, I was fully there--I didn't allow my mind to wreak havoc on my moment. Each time my little mind started to wander with thoughts of oh shit, they're going to be here in a half hour and I haven't even cleaned up the house, or, what if this new recipe is a total flop...each time it started to wander away from what I was doing into fear mode, I paused and came back to whatever was right before me. Chopping carrots now. Dicing garlic now. Noticing the breeze coming through the open window now. Noticing the flicker of the candle now. Breathing a deep breath now. And each time I came back to whatever was right before me, my breathing became fuller, my belly softened, my mind quieted down. I remember this thought quietly entering my mind, so, this is what peace is. This is what happens when I get out of my mind and into the moment.
This little example of presence came a few years ago, at a time when I was fully committed to being present in my life. I had just read Eckhart Tolle's book "A New Earth," and had started really practicing presence. There was a two week span of time when I continually, moment by moment (each time my mind started to take me down the fear path) brought myself back to what was right before me. I became the observer, the quiet listener. I stopped identifying with my thoughts. I stopped the old stories before they had a chance to back me in a corner. To this day, I can honestly say, it was the most peaceful time of my life. The heavy feeling I had felt in my chest for as long as I could remember, just kind of went away--it wasn't there anymore. Things became clear. Decision making became easier. I trusted myself more. It didn't so much matter what was happening outside of me, as long as I stayed out of my mind and in the moment, I felt peace.
It was such a full, beautiful time.
I have continued to practice presence, but, for whatever reason, not with quite the focus as I had during that two week period. In Karen Maezen Miller's book, Momma Zen, she says, "My practice is to see that nothing ever gets in the way of anything else." When I came upon these words, a few days ago, they stopped me in my tracks and pointed me back toward words that have visited again and again over the last few months...you really need to stop letting your computer time interfere with the rest of your life.
I've been getting these little nudges that have said, set aside specific times for blogging, emailing, etc...and the rest of the time, turn the computer off. I've continually gotten these nudges, and continually ignored them, even though I notice that when I'm on it too much or when I'm on it and trying to be with my kids at the same time, I become anxious, my breathing becomes shallow, my chest heavy--even though I've noticed how much it gets in the way of my being truly present.
SO....here comes the little, big decision that I referred to on Wednesday...so sorry to have made you wait. (Giggle, giggle.) I'm not throwing away my computer or shutting down my blog. I'm not taking off for Tuscany or publishing a book (sorry). I'm simply (and not so simply) honoring the whispers that have been trying to get me to listen for months now. I'm honoring the deeper part of me that keeps saying...it's time to show up, fully, for every part of your life.
So...I'm going to set aside specific times for the computer, and, during the rest of the time, I'm going to show up for what's right before me. I'm going to practice giving what's in front of me my full attention. I'm going to do my best to gently pause my thoughts when they start to run away with me and come back to what's in front of me. I'm going to do this again and again. I'm going to be gentle and forgiving with this practice.
I read recently that the greatest gift you can give to others is your full attention. I'm going to change this to say, the greatest gift you can give to others and yourself and whatever is right before you is your full attention.
I'm going to practice presence because I know now is where peace is found...and love and joy and giggles and tenderness and compassion. And chunky little kissable cheeks and tiny, little girl freckles. And the smell of campfire smoke and freshly baking bread. And the sound of little birdies chirping and the feel of the sun on my face. I know this is where it's all found and I don't want to miss a second more. And because I know that no amount of anything that I could ever get or do (even publishing a book or going to Tuscany) will ever bring me the kind of peace I felt that evening in my kitchen.
What's getting in the way of you being fully in this moment? Is there any time better than now to start practicing presence? Wanna join me?