Every time you become aware of waiting today, notice one breath consciously.
Notice all the moving parts that had to align perfectly in order to create the opportunity for you to notice one breath consciously.
Loving what is in front of us to do is a radical act of self-love, and is one fundamental way to guarantee a genuine, enduring experience of meaningful success. It shifts the focus away from “what” we do and puts the focus squarely on “how” we do what we do.
Our life’s work is not about the activity itself: it is about aligning with what is in front of us to do and celebrating the miracle of sentience and the capacity for reflection. Instead of resisting our life, we align with it and learn from it. When we love what we do, what we do changes. The surface aspects of who we are then also change, allowing our authenticity to stand revealed. In this way, authenticity isn’t something we need to strive for, uphold, or create. It is what’s left after we have shed everything that’s inauthentic.
My challenge for you today: when you become aware of resistance, notice one breath consciously. Notice how resistance sets the stage for a direct experience of authenticity.
When you become aware of disappointment, notice one breath consciously.
Notice the opportunity that the disappointment creates: an opportunity to open, to explore, to discover. When fully embraced, disappointment provides a pristine opportunity to know ourselves more deeply. Instead of saying “woe is me”, try asking “what can I learn?”.
Every time you become aware of striving towards a goal today, notice one breath consciously.
Notice that your very being is the successful result of billions of years of evolution. Taking the next step with open curiosity and unfettered awe aligns you with the fullest possible expression of yourself in this moment. It connects you to yourself, to others, and to life, in a radical and transformative way, resulting in an experience of fundamental success.
Every time you become aware of checking the time today, notice one breath consciously.
Notice how timelessness is here as well.
Every time you become aware of feeling constricted today, notice one breath consciously.
Notice how expansion is here as well.
There is only ever this next step.
Everything that needs done will get done.
Being “presence” can be described as sensing a deep connectedness and aliveness between yourself and life. When we are presence, we essentially step outside of identification with form (thought forms, emotional forms, or physical forms) and open ourselves up with a sense of awe to everything that is contained within this moment. When we regularly practice presence in our daily lives, we are better able to catch ourselves in moments of past conditioning. This allows us the opportunity to break the chain of reactive patterns of behavior that can be the source of so much suffering.
One way of practicing presence is to simply take in as many of the sensations available to you in this moment without interpreting or labeling them. As your senses perceive your surroundings, just allow them to “be” without any judgment or resistance. For instance, when you go outside: instead of thinking “Ah, the sun feels warm”, just become the warmth, or instead of “Wow, that breeze feels fantastic”, become transparent to it instead of allowing it to become a thought about how it feels on your skin.
Visually, we are often drawn to notice those things that are most obvious (bright, big, odd, whatever). When we find ourselves drawn to that obvious object, use that as a cue to practice being presence by shifting your attention to everything around that most obvious object. Sense how everything else in that space is allowing that more obvious object to be noticed, including the empty space between you and it. Or instead of looking at the flowering trees in Spring, notice instead the beauty of the still-bare trees nearby that allow the other trees to stand out.
Another way of practicing presence is to consider all the steps and people and processes that were necessary in the creation of this present moment. It is one way of being presence from the aspect of being “all of eternity” in this single moment, and bringing in as much of the entire process as you can that led up to that moment into that moment.
A personal example: As I ate a piece of homemade banana bread one day, I brought into my awareness as many of the elements as I could that went into making that one moment possible. I considered what it took to grow the bananas, including the people who were the first to discover and eat bananas. I brought into focus all that was involved in discovering, growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, delivering, and purchasing all the rest of the ingredients too, as well as everything within my own personal process of making it. I considered the very first person to put all these ingredients together, and my mother who made it for me, and my children who I am able to make it for. By tracing a moment back to the beginning of time, it lends a sensation of extreme and humbling significance to that moment, even if all you’re doing is simply eating a piece of banana bread.
Everything is important in this moment, and if we’re only paying attention to the flashy stuff, we are caught up in the content, and the more subtle clues to discovering our path can often get overlooked. By bringing in moments of presence in our daily lives, we create gaps in the otherwise incessant stream of thoughts that can consume us. From that platform, we are more open to seeing a situation for what it is rather than coloring it with hurts from the past or fears about the future. We sense our own aliveness and connectedness to life, and we are better able to act, instead of react, to the challenges that will inevitably arise in our day. In this way, we find peace and fulfillment in the only place it can ever be found: this present moment.
I have several everyday meditations having to do with laundry because this is such a common chore that anyone can do. Of course, if you don’t typically do the laundry in your house, you can still benefit from reading this post by taking the structure of what I am sharing and applying it to some other aspect of your life that is equally as monotonous and mundane. Again, it’s not that you’re always going to have time to tend to the laundry in these ways, but if you catch yourself pushing through the task just for the sake of being done, you may choose instead to take a breath and then try out one of these practices.
I already shared one “everyday” laundry meditation in yesterday’s post, “Meditation: Slow Motion”, which focused on sorting the laundry before washing. Another meditation opportunity I embrace sometimes is when I am folding the laundry: as I handle each piece of clothing, I smooth it and fold it with great care, and just open myself up to being the action without any concern for the what is accomplished by the action. By opening myself up in this way, I generate an intense sense of quality and precision which feels very satisfying, and that feeling then carries over into other things I do in my day.
Other times instead of just being the action, I bring to it a deep sense of gratitude for each item I fold. Gratitude for having the money to buy it, gratitude for having a washer and dryer to clean them, gratitude for the children they clothe, gratitude for this simple task I can do for them as a way of letting them know I love them, gratitude that I don’t have to carry my clothes down to the stream each week to wash them, then have to carry a basket full of wet laundry back home to hang them to dry. I even find gratitude for having the simple chore that allows me to practice this mindful meditation.
Other times I contemplate the process that went into why I have this laundry to be folding in the first place. I work my way back down the chain, beginning with why I bought them, where I bought them, how the store came upon having them to sell, the delivery trucks that carried them, the manufacturers that made them, the designers that designed them, the manufacturers that produced the material, the farmers that grew the cotton, the very first humans who figured out how to spin and weave material, and all the incredible feats of engineering that were necessary each step of the way. And a sense of fascination comes over me as I recognize the fact that many of the items I’m folding cost less than ten dollars apiece. How is that even possible? And so as I finish the chore, I am filled with a renewed sense of just how fortunate I am to live in these times.
It’s these simple tasks and chores in our days that give us an opportunity to open up to the greater wonder of this world we live in. We avail ourselves to a much bigger perspective by stepping outside of the limited confines of our conceptualized reality. We touch a sense of peace and perfection that we can take with us in our other interactions throughout our days, and share it with others we come into contact with.
If you have any tips and practices with simple everyday tasks, or if you wanted to report any results from trying my suggestions, it’d be great to hear from you.
Rather than restrict meditation to sitting in stillness, I tend to get huge benefits when I bring a meditative state to whatever it is that I happen to be doing. An “everyday” meditation I often get a lot out of is centered on the concept of slow motion. There are so many different ways to apply this concept to the simple things you do each day, and even just working this into your routine for fifteen to thirty minutes a few times a week can open you up to some remarkable insights.
I first started this one a few months back when I was cleaning the kitchen. I caught myself just rushing through the task for no particular reason, lost in a train of thought. I reminded myself: do it for the sake of doing it, not for the sake of getting done.
I immediately slowed down each motion, and felt gratitude for the reminder to awaken. My mind was “still” as I just watched the cloth swirl in circles on the countertop. I lost myself in the motion, and forgot completely about the fact that this was a chore I didn’t enjoy. And as I finished that area, my attention was drawn to a spot on the cupboard that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise if I had been rushing, and I slowly took care of it, which led me to the next spot, and so on throughout the entire kitchen. Granted, it took me much longer than normal, and it’s not something I can do every time I clean the kitchen, but the feeling I had when I was done was one of pure nirvana (as ridiculous as that sounds).
I brought the slow motion practice to the chore of laundry next, only this time instead of just being the motion, I allowed my mind to consider some various aspects of the task. For example: as I caught myself hurriedly sorting laundry one day, I decided just to sit down in the midst of it and slow the process way down. For a while, my mind was still, and I just watched as the laundry was getting moved from the big pile into two smaller piles. Several items later, I started wondering: “why did I choose this piece and not some other piece?” and then I would watch again to see if some reasoning surfaced. Sometimes I noticed I chose it because it was a similar type or color as the last item. Sometimes it was based on proximity or whether or not it needed to be turned right side out. As I picked one item, I realized I had already mentally picked it as the “next item” while I was in the process of picking the last item.
Why is this important? I don’t know. I guess what it brought up for me was a sense of wondering how many other processes I tend to in the day on automatic pilot, and for the first time I was observing those otherwise unobserved patterns. This could be very useful, because in the process I might find something that I’ve always done out of habit, but maybe by slowing it down and exploring the process, I might discover a better, more efficient way of doing it.
Finally, I also bring the practice of slow motion to my thoughts when I just can’t turn them off or if I can’t get a song out of my head. I slow it down to one word per breath, and before long I just lose interest in whatever it was that had taken over my thoughts in the first place, and I find myself in a place of stillness and peace.
As you go through your day, try to bring awareness to those activities you do on autopilot, and consider how you might apply some of these concepts to those activities.
Gratitude is an amazing opener. And there are so many ways of utilizing it in your day to bring you back to that sacred connection with life. Anything you are doing, especially the least desired things you are doing, can be transformed by just a small handful of genuine, embodied moments of deep gratitude. In other words, it is not enough just to think the words of gratitude, you need to feel the words as they roll through your mind in a way where at some level you become that feeling of gratitude.
So let’s say I’m stuck in traffic, and I’m really late for something critical, and my cell phone is dead and there’s just nothing I can do but sit there and wait for traffic to clear up. Sure, there are always lots of personal things that you could be grateful for, but rather than go straight to the easy stuff, let’s make it more situation specific.
How about being grateful for even having a car? Think about the olden days when people had to walk to town, or the people in this and other countries whose lives would be transformed if they only had a car: being stuck in traffic would be a good problem to have. What about the amazing feat of engineering that went into having the roads to drive on and how most days they carry you swiftly and safely from place to place? How about a shout out to the fact that you had enough money that you could buy the car? And then there’s the gratitude for how many times you travel each year without getting into an accident. Oh, and another good one is gratitude for all the parts of the car that are absolutely overlooked but that function without any effort or intention from you.
And if I’m in a really tough spot, and there’s just nothing I can find in my situation to bring gratitude to, I turn my gratitude to my breath. Without it, I wouldn’t be here to experience this mess I’m in. :) I express gratitude for my heart for circulating, and for my brain for processing. I try to consider those organs inside me that I have absolutely no awareness of whatsoever, but that do whatever it is that they do without any instruction from me, thereby freeing me up to focus my attention on other things. Incredible…
And from there, the real test of gratitude is gratitude for the mess you find yourself in: after all, it provided a cue for you to awaken, and an opportunity to practice gratitude. By connecting to life in that way, you open yourself up to possible solutions that you simply couldn’t see before.
Another way you can utilize gratitude is to consider all the “things” in your life. The things that bring you joy are the easy ones, and from there you may start noticing those things that are so often overlooked and discover a renewed spark from them. But the things that bring you pain are again the real test. Finding gratitude for those things and how they can serve, if nothing else, to remind you to awaken and reclaim your connection to life is indeed something worth a moment of deep gratitude.
And a final tip: next time you find yourself saying, “Oh, if I only had (fill in the blank), then I’d be so happy!”, stop and say it again, only this time replace the word “happy” with the word “grateful” and see how that feels. That feeling will be a big indicator as to whether or not you really need that thing.
And if you can genuinely embody that feeling of gratitude just a handful of times each day, it will lead you to discovering the happiness that you already have but which, like so many other things in your life, was just simply being overlooked.
Always, everyday, there are so many choices. And just beyond that, there is something driving those choices we make. I walk into a room, and something grabs my attention: do I tend to it now or do I shrug it off in favor of another activity? Too often I just say, “Oh, I’ll take care of that later” and head off to do something more urgent or more indulgent. And then later, when it comes up again, do I do it now or choose to put it off again? I mean, what is it that keeps drawing my attention to those things anyway? There are thousands of other things in my surroundings that I simply don’t take notice of: Why that thing? Why now? What is it that it is here to teach me?
While we certainly can’t immediately tend to every little thing that draws our attention, it is important to recognize that there is something unique about those things that draw our attention. The thing itself is just a symbol of something deeper. Everything that is in our lives can help reveal something about ourselves if we just see past the object to the subjectiveness of the object or overall situation.
It is important to recognize our patterns of resistance and indulgence. I mean, face it: indulgence is typically only really indulgent if there are other things you “should” be doing instead. The more off limits you make something in your mind, the more indulgent it becomes when you do give yourself over to it. It is selfish decadence at it’s best. “There are so many other things I should be doing, but I just really want to be doing this right now.” And then when that moment is over, you’re still left with all those other things that needed done, but now you have less time and more stress.
What I have found is that if a couple times a day, even for maybe only fifteen minutes, I give myself over to those things that I would otherwise put off, and I do it in an open and willing spirit, I find more peace and fulfillment than I ever could by doing whatever else I wanted to do instead. In those moments, I get insights into questions that have been plaguing me, or I get filled with a sense of aliveness and gratitude. And just having those experiences a couple times a day helps me meet the rest of the events in my day from a point of calm rather than chaos. Rather than limit meditation practices exclusively to sitting in stillness, I make those experiences into my meditation.
And when I open myself up to the lesson that the things in my life have for me, I quickly realize the reason an activity drew my attention had nothing to do with what needed to be done and everything to do with simply providing me an opportunity to stop resisting for a few minutes. In that surrender, I have found more clues leading me towards more fulfillment than I ever could have found at any level of indulgence.
So whether what it is you resist is putting something where it belongs or leaving things where they don’t, recognize the resistance and then do it anyway. The next time something grabs your attention, if you’re fortunate enough to catch yourself in the moment of resistance, surrender to it instead and see what you find hidden within that surrender. You may just find peace, and maybe even joy, and from those platforms you will find clarity to see what really needs done and the empowerment to do them.