I thought I would talk a little today about being present OUT of the class. We spend a lot of time focusing on it in class: how being present is what connects you to your life as it is right now; that in the present all is well; and by accessing that connection in class we can tap into a wonderful feeling of peace and relaxation. Of course class is set up exactly to reconnect you to your body and to the present moment and that’s why you feel like you do after class….BUT with a little practice you can learn to tap into that present feeling of stillness, calm and relaxation at intervals through your day.

This is the secret : WE HAVE ALL THE TIME WE NEED! No more no less. There is no past or future, they exist only in our memory or our imagination. All we can really truly live and experience…is NOW. The anxiety many of us feel about not having enough time is  an intellectually fruitless position and gains us nothing but making us stressed! Time is not elastic, it just is. Trying to cram more and more into time just increases our separation from the present…why? Because we are focused on the future…by thinking ‘I just need to get this done, and when that’s done I’ll quickly squeeze in that thing, and then if I really hustle maybe that other not so important thing I might do”…whilst we are running that stressful loop we are completely future focused. What pleasure are we feeling about the thing we are doing right now? Little or none. We are not even feeling it or fully noticing it because our thoughts are in the future racing away consumed by all the things we have not yet done rather than the one thing we are actually doing right now.

So…here’s a good technique to work with this outside of class in 5 steps…

  1. Awareness. Just catching yourself and being aware of this stressful though loop is a powerful first step. Be aware you are in the future. No judgment is attached to that thought, it’s not a ‘bad’ thing that your thought is future focused…just be aware, without judgment…’Oh, look at me… I’m doing that stressful not enough time thought loop thing again!’
  2. Connect with your body…just be aware of your body and your breathing as you think this ‘not enough time’ thought.
  3. Tell yourself with conviction: I have all the time I need.
  4. Reconnect with the present. Okay, just park all those things you need to get done later…later is later. Thinking about those things in that manner is NOT GETTING THEM DONE ANY QUICKER! What are you doing NOW? Right this exact second in the present? Emailing a client? Making the kids lunchboxes? Speaking to your mother on cheap jerseys the phone? That is the present for you. That is what you can live and experience right now.
  5. Really be present with what you are doing right now…on the phone to your mother/client? Listen Example to her, really listen, not be thinking up your cunning comeback (means you’re in the future again!) or checking your blackberry but by really attending to what she is saying. Making the dinner right now?…then make the dinner, not be thinking about what you’ll do when it’s done…be aware of each ingredient you use, of what you can smell, of the textures of them, the sizzling sounds in the kitchen…be present. Be mindful. Feel the sensation of relaxation flood into your brain and your body as the tension releases as  you connect to the present and what you are doing right now and nothing else.

It’s hard I know! And it takes a long time to make it a habit. But the more I try to stay mindful and present whilst I am doing what I am doing then a weird thing happens: the more relaxed I am, and the more I enjoy the thing, even if it’s a pretty unthrilling chore. Hanging out the washing and actually hanging out the washing rather than being hung up on what I should be doing instead is a much more positive experience: listening to the birds outside, smelling the garden, feeling the textures of the clothes as I hang them is way less stressful that thinking ‘I must get x, y and z done as soon as I have finished hanging out this damn washing’. And, you know what I am so much less stressed when I get on to doing x or y that I accomplish them faster and with more ease.

If it’s all too hard this mindfulness business I totally understand, that’s because it is hard! Let’s be honest to live this way 100% of the time we would need to be a Zen master in a monastery. But just tapping into that feeling of peacefulness and presentness a few times a day is very worthwhile….just give it a try. Of course if you just do not have time to try the mindfulness thing that’s totally okay too: you have that dedicated bit of time each week to yourself in the perfect environment to make it happen. It’s all good!