“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
This is a time of year that we tend to get caught up in the past and the future. We analyze what we did “wrong” last year and are determined to do “better” this year. We set lofty goals for the upcoming year that are often forgotten by June. So what’s wrong with this picture?
Life happens in the present moment. If we focus on past “mistakes” or future “dreams” we miss out on all of the richness of life happening all around us right now.
Some of us are so goal and achievement focused that we miss what is going on around us. Children grow, friends and family die, dreams come and go and we wonder where time went.
If you are an empath or highly sensitive you may intentionally block out the world around you. When light is too bright, sound is too loud and touch is painful the easiest way to deal with things is to shut the outside world out. Been there done that. It doesn’t work.
We always have the present moment, but how often do we miss it? We listen to the constant chatter of our mind and believe that is what life is all about. Believe me it isn’t.
Take a minute and notice your breath. Breathe in. Beathe out. Can you hear your breath? Can you hear or feel your heart beat? What can you hear around you? Are there birds singing you never noticed? Can you see the bird? If thoughts come up, and they will, set them aside. Stay centered in the present moment and your breath.
This is not just something to do when we are meditating. We can take it out into the world with us. When we begin to stay in the present moment we will realize the joy and beauty of right now.. Be there with and for those who accompany you on your journey. Savor these moments. Don’t let regrets of the past and worry about the future steal them from you.
It’s January 1st! Are you Ready to put aside your to-do lists, resolutions, goals and dreams and try a little mindfulness?
We’re starting the New Year differently than we have in the past. Hang on, and lets celebrate during January by tuning in, being mindful and living in the moment.
Here we go!
Most of us could use a little help living in the present moment, couldn’t we? We spend much of our time planning, re-planning, and evaluating what we have done, moving back and forth between the past and the future. We forget that life is now and this is the time to live it. This is why I have chosen mindfulness as my first benefit of yoga.
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way. On purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” So how does yoga help us do this?
By pairing our body movements with our breath, with our focus on our breath and body sensations arising as we practice, we train ourselves to stay present in the moment. This is not always as easy as it sounds when we are on the mat and our burning thighs, tight hamstrings and the blood rushing to our head as we are in downward facing dog are screaming for our attention. And this is of course the day the teacher decides to do long holds. But these are the perfect times to practice mindfulness, continuing to bring our attention back to the breath whenever it starts to wander.
There are teachers who combine their training in Buddhist mindfulness meditation with yoga with a special focus on mindfulness. This is of course helpful, but you can begin on your own by focusing on the breath as you move through the yoga poses.
Mindfulness is something that is learned. Yoga is one way we can learn it. So next time you go to the yoga mat leave the busyness of your day and the to-do list for later behind. Breathe. Move with breath. Focus on the breath and any body sensations that arise. It can take time for mindfulness to become a natural part of life, but start on the yoga mat and you are on your way.
Bob and I have a very nice laundry room in our home. I did not realize how spoiled we were until the dryer went out. We live full-time at a lakeside resort and there is a laundry room on the property. In fact it is less than a block from our house. But I quickly learned that dragging hampers full of wet laundry even a short distance in not fun. The first two times I tried I hurt my back and neck. After weighing my options I decided to take the laundry into town when I took Bob to the YMCA and dry the clothes at the laundromat while I waited for Bob. Seemed like a great idea. In fact earlier this week the laundry was all washed and ready to go when Bob decided he was not up to the Y. Not wanting to drive into town just to dry clothes I decided to schlep them down to the laundry room. But this time I did something different.
So what did I do? The first two times I was trying to dry clothes while also trying to work online and prepare lunch, with frequent trips back and forth between home and laundry room. It was a mess. I was a mess. Everything got done, but not well. When I was finished I was in pain.
So… this time I decided to devote my full time and attention to the laundry. I sat down and waited for the clothes to dry. I read magazines. I drank a bottle of water and had a nice conversation with a neighbor who came in to wash her clothes. What I had been seeing as a burdensome chore became a welcome break. And since I was not worried about getting everything done at once, my muscles did not tense up when I picked up the laundry baskets, and I was not in pain.
Another gentle reminder of how we create our own reality and a good lesson in living in the present moment.
Yesterday morning as I was walking toward the lake I stopped suddenly with a “Whoa… Cool!” The beauty of the morning mist hovering over the lake stopped me in my tracks. This is not an everyday occurrence, but it is also not that rare. It does leave me in awe every time I see it however.
I continued on and stopped for a minute to take a moment to soak in the beauty of the moment. When I turned back to the trail I saw someone on their porch and said, “I was just admiring the mist on the lake.” He looked out and had obviously not noticed it. Then I said while pointing, “That bank of clouds over there looks like it is actually touching the lake.” He then paused for a minute, looking, and said. “Yeah, it does… Cool!”
As I continued on my walk, I realized that this is what my life is all about. Living my life, walking in the truth and sharing it in gentle and subtle ways as I go. I need to be reminded of that a lot. When we first moved here people laughed at me… a lot. I was just that crazy woman who walked all the time. But now after watching me for three years I am seeing people making changes in their own lives to become more healthy and mindful. Our best teachings come not from our words, but from the way we live.
As an artist I believe it is my joy, pleasure and responsibility to let people get a glimpse of the world through this artist’s eyes. In fact all awakened beings share in this, artists or not. It is only through seeing glimpses of what life not only can be but is if we only open our eyes to it that people will begin to realize the reality that they have created for themselves does not have to be so.
So as you walk through this life be open to your own opportunities to see the world through new eyes. Live and walk in truth and love and others may have the same opportunity through you.
“You can be still and still moving. Content even in your discontent.” – Ram Dass
Over a decade ago, I was visiting Portland, Oregon when I saw a flyer advertising Ram Dass was in town and speaking that night. It felt like one of those special deliveries from the universe. My exposure to Ram Dass at that point had been some older interviews and his indisputably trippy book, “Be Here Now.” I was geeked at the idea of being able to see and hear him in person, though I knew he’d had a stroke and had no illusion that he would be the vibrant soul I’d seen in interviews.
The joke was on me.
He was not wildly gesticulating, his speech was slow and he was in a wheelchair. That was all true. But the unmistakable vibrancy and that metaphorical twinkle in his eye remained, despite the stroke. Or perhaps in spite of it. For it would be untrue to say that he suffered this stroke, as that was not his terminology. In fact, he used the term, “I was stroked.” In doing so, he changed his entire perspective of the situation to more clearly see the learning aspect that comes in a challenging situation.
After all, having a stroke and being stroked are two very different things.
Three years later when I was in the throes of a serious and debilitating depression – the third episode of its kind – I felt unable to draw from the inspiration that came that night from Ram Dass. I suppose I wasn’t ready. So I allowed fear and depression to consume me.
But then in the past two years, when depression knocked on my door again, the memory of Ram Dass came back to me. And rather than rage against the machine, I went gently into that dark night of the soul. Taking this different perspective allowed me to learn from depression rather than be consumed by it. Like a houseguest, I attempted to welcome it, befriend it and figure out what it was trying to tell me.
Most importantly, I continued to remind myself that this particular houseguest, like all houseguests, would eventually leave.
I know now that depression is a reality in my life. It’s a part of who I am. But like Ram Dass, in changing my perspective – in surrendering to what is rather than fighting a losing battle – I have found a new teacher and ultimately a better me. And yes, it’s uncomfortable. Even agonizing at times.
But I know how to move in the stillness now. And I’m learning to be content in the discontent.
Like many before her, Steph Ruopp is a human. In her title of human, she serves as a writer, yoga instructor, educator, special needs caregiver, nanny and dog walker. She’s comfortable in many hats.
“If you clean the floor with love, you have given the world an invisible painting.” – Osho
Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” – Thich Nhat Hanh