3 Words To Find Your Way Back To Here
It happened right in the middle of my 30-minute walk.
There I was, somewhere in my neighborhood, when it hit me:
I have no idea how I got here.
For at least the past 10 minutes, I'd been caught up in thought. I'd been walking with one foot in front of the other, but completely oblivious to what was happening around me.
My mind freaked out for a moment and tried to rectify things.
It fed me a word: FEEL.
So I did.
I felt the weight of my feet on the pavement. I felt the slight, cool, morning breeze. I heard the bird in the distance, the cars even farther in the distance, the dog that had just been startled and was barking at something else passing by. I felt my body moving.
And there I was again.
It was that moment that led me to a practice I've been doing for weeks now - one that has slowly but drastically been changing my ability to be more in this moment. More what? More present. More alive. More at ease with my breath. More HERE.
Have you ever found yourself in such a scenario - where you are walking or driving a very familiar path, then suddenly "wake up" out of your thoughts and realize you have no idea what has been happening? (Or perhaps you've had this same sleep-walking experience while zoning out in the middle of a meeting or a conversation....or even in moving from one room to the next, trying to remember why you came in that room in the first place.)
That this happens isn't good nor bad in and of itself. The problem is that these common occurrences (we've ALL been there, done that) are indicative of a far deeper and more troublesome habit: the habit of sleepwalking through our days and our lives.
I've recently been speaking of flirtation and seduction, of embodiment and rediscovering the energy that comes from playing with the sensual energies of life. Those practices are one way to break out of your sleep, to re-awaken your sense of mindful presence (and joy) in daily life.
But the beauty of reawakening to a "joie de vivre" (joy of living) is that there are infinite paths to doing so. If revving up your sense of flirting with the world doesn't get you excited, I plead with you to not just sink back under the covers.
Each day matters. Today matters. The way you drive your car, walk from your living room to your kitchen, or listen (or ignore) that conversation matters. You are either asleep for each moment or awakened to it. How you live this moment will lead you to living the next moment in the same manner.
As I've said before and will say many times more, as you do one thing, so you do all things.
That means that every moment of your life is an opportunity to practice being more present and feeling more alive.
Back to my very mundane walk and my very common spacing-out.
I've found these 3 practices to be immensely helpful in bringing me back into the moment, and helping me to experience my walk, my quiet moments at home, and my social conversations in far more beneficial ways.
Let's see how they work for you.
Repeat after me:
THINK. FEEL. BE.
This can be your new mantra throughout the day (and tomorrow, and the day after if you wish). Think. Feel. Be.
The trick is noticing what you aren't doing and switch yourself into that experience of the moment.
While you are actually thinking all of the time, a great deal of it is not conscious thinking.
THINKING is about engaging with the thoughts you are having and directing them towards contemplative and self-reflective thinking. By spending the time to get to know yourself a bit better, you have a better opportunity of discovering what makes you feel the most alive and what drains you.
This practice is best for when you have a bit of down time from work, and/or are engaging in something that doesn't require a great deal of your conscious attention.
In such situations, instead of mindlessly scrolling through the internet or clicking on Netflix, try a bit of purposeful thinking.
Close your eyes, breathe, and creatively engage with your thinking. Direct your thoughts to something that will give you a bit of clarity, peace-of-mind, or both.
If you have a bit more time, pull out a blank piece of paper (or journal, if you have one). Breathe for a moment, and just write whatever comes to mind. What is it that you feel called to think about? For the sake of this exercise (and your well-being), try to focus on things that feel neutral or positive. (Dealing with challenging thoughts is an entirely different practice.)
Or pull out your phone and start a voice recorder. Just talk to yourself for a moment. Remind yourself of something you need to hear.
Your thoughts direct your emotions, influence your physical well-being, and guide your actions. Spend some time with them today and consciously create more positive perspectives for this moment and the upcoming ones.
Your body is constantly sensing the world around you, but again - a great deal of it doesn't enter your conscious awareness.
FEELING is about dropping into your body and feeling whatever is happening in this moment. It isn't just about touch. See, smell, listen, and if you are eating - taste - whatever you are actually experiencing.
This practice is best for when you find yourself stressed, caught up in thinking (shoulds / gotta do's / regrets / etc), or just feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Lunch time? Spend some time actually tasting the saltiness, sweetness, temperature, and texture of your food. Feel it as you swallow.
Running to your next meeting or through an errand? Drop into your body. Listen to what is rushing around you - and maybe, to what is still. Breathe and smell the scents in the air. Feel the weight of your body in each step, or down into the seat.
Allow yourself to drop in to the sensation of your breathing.
The practices of thinking and feeling can pull you back into yourself, but sometimes it is just as important to direct your attention fully to what is happening outside of yourself.
BEing is about releasing all thoughts and sensations and expanding your awareness to incorporate what is happening all around you.
This practice is best for when you are engaged in conversation, find yourself in a new or natural environment (a new city, a forest), or is equally as beneficial for when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
If you've found yourself spacing out during conversation, speaking the word "BE" silently to yourself can initiate this practice. Open yourself fully to what the person across from you is saying, both with their words and their physical presence. Release judgments or expectations or responses and simply listen. Be fully with conversation.
When feeling stressed, take a moment to pause and breathe. In that space - even if it is just 10 seconds - release all tension from your mind and body. Simply breathe and be. Notice, acknowledge, release all judgments, and Be.
*In this week's BeingBreath newsletter, I shared a fun video by Andy, who speaks about the power of 10 minutes of mindfulness (no incense or even sitting required). Be sure you are on the list to not miss out on these extra resources. Subscribe here
Learning to pull yourself back into this moment through silently reciting "THINK", "FEEL", or "BE" can alter your experience of your daily life in positive ways. By bringing your attention back to this moment, these simple words (and the awareness that follows them) can create feelings of groundedness, and help awaken you to the wisdom in your own mind and that spoken by others.
And hopefully, this practice will keep you from once again winding up in a room, on a drive, or in the middle of a walk, and having no idea how you got there.
Here's to being here.