“WHAT AM I HERE FOR? WHAT’S MY PURPOSE? WHAT’S NEXT?”
We get so lost in the daily chaos of life we can’t see beyond it, never mind contemplate big “Who am I?” questions. A lot of the time, dare I say most of the time, we are immersed in daily chaos. Absorbed in the stories of our lives and quite attached to these stories as well.
A few years ago, as my business was growing and I was teaching 14+ yoga classes a week, my attention was spread too thin. I focused so wholeheartedly on my business and family that my personal practice of yoga and meditation waned. I had a really tough time. Balancing work and family felt impossible. Growth felt unfairly expensive. The financial compensation I was receiving for my hard work was nil. From the outside, things looked awesome. With all this doing and working, there was impressive sales growth at the studio. New space, more classes, more products and services, all well received by the community. But it was very expensive
to manage. From the outside, the perception was that things were amazing. From my perspective on the inside, I was miserable. Why?
I was in a constant state of doing and thinking, planning, problem solving and worrying. When my mind wasn’t occupied with creating solutions; it was telling me how hard this experience was. Quite often, the question in my mind (to myself) was “Why is this so hard?” and I would answer the question with all the (very valid) reasons that my life was so hard.
I was lost in the daily commotion of my life. I was immersed and attached to my “this is so hard” story. It was running rampant in my mind.
Have you ever seen someone talking to themselves? Apparently lost in a dialog with themselves. Not at all aware of people or events around them. They appear a little nuts, no? But isn’t this what we do all day long? We may not speak out loud, but most of us have a constant inner dialog that occupies every moment. It feels like there is someone in your head just yapping away. Yap- yap-yap. Always saying something. It’s like having a person in your head constantly narrating your life. Now imagine you could take this narrator out of your head and put her in the seat next to you, like she was a buddy. How would that go?
For me, if I were to do this, it would go something like this: “Alyssa, did you get everything done on your to-do list today? You should check it again, just in case you forgot something. Oh, you did forget something? You forgot to put the new private client in the scheduler. And, oh, you keep forgetting to make Amanda’s dentist appointment. You kinda suck at those things. How are sales today? What can you do to increase them? Have you done any PR pitches this week? You should do like ten. Two a day, you can do that. Don’t forget the girls don’t have after school on Friday and they have a winter concert. Make sure they have clean dresses and tights. Oh shit, when are you going to do laundry? This working mother thing is hard. When is my next vacation? Why don’t we get more vacations? Because you need to pay yourself more in order to do that. Then I have to work harder. Ok, I’ll work harder…”
If that person were sitting in a seat next to me, I’d leave the room. Except she’s in my head, all the time. And if I remain unaware of a few key things, she ruins my day, every single day.
And what are those very key things?
She’s not me.
She’s not true.
She is not to be believed. I am not my thoughts.
Here’s the thing. While we inherently know this to be true, we get sucked in. Our thoughts are personal. They’ve been with us forever. My thinking patterns tend to be forward moving (and anxiety provoking), but everyone’s thoughts are different, and the quality of your thinking is as original and complex as the matrix of your personal mind/body/spirit human experience. One thing is true for most of us: those thoughts are loud and dominating and capable of taking over our entire experience when we become immersed in them. And that was my why. I was immersed in my own thoughts. I believed them when they told me I was too busy to slow down to do yoga or meditate or eat well (or do anything for myself, really). I was always focusing on the thoughts and never on the space in between the thoughts.
The space in between the thoughts. What is that about? Take a moment and close your eyes. Watch your breath and notice your thinking. Notice the space in between the thoughts. That silent space. It may be long or it may be brief. But that space is where the magic is. That’s where now is. Right here, right now. It is where we are meant to be…
THERE IS ONLY THIS MOMENT, RIGHT NOW. THE THINKING MIND IS QUITE POWERFUL, LIKE AN OCEAN WAVE THAT KNOCKS YOU OFF YOUR FEET. THE MIND, WHEN UNCONTROLLED, PULLS YOU AWAY FROM YOUR MOMENT IN THE HERE AND NOW.
Our culture made us lose the ability to simply be. We are busy doing. We have no space in our minds or our bodies, much less our lives. When we have no space, no silence, how can we tune into our intuition? How can we hear our inspiration? We can’t. Not easily anyway. To master our lives, we must master our minds. To awaken from our immersion in thinking, we must train ourselves to be mindful of the present moment. The term mindfulness is becoming well known. Let’s look at what it means. Mindfulness simply means paying attention to what is happening now. There is a difference between mindfulness and awareness. You can be aware that you are having a powerful emotional experience and yelling at your children.
Mindfulness is paying attention to the sensation of the human experience. Feeling it, watching it and therefore pausing to modify behaviors that aren’t helpful (i.e., yelling). Awareness is key and often the beginning of the journey.
Constant attention to my breath and the sensations in my body let me to mindfulness of the thoughts themselves. This helped me to overcome my “this is so hard” story. Being present and residing in a state of gratitude helped me to grow and change the way I relate to my business and day to day routine. You don’t have to be a yoga enthusiast or meditation expert to benefit from mindfulness. In fact, you don’t even need to sit still. The cool thing about this moment now is that it’s with us; no matter what we are doing.
HERE ARE THREE DAILY ACTIVITIES YOU CAN DO TO HELP MASTER YOUR MIND, FIND THE SPACE IN BETWEEN YOUR THOUGHTS AND SIMPLY BE:
FEEL THE FLOW
How often do we get in the shower only to think about everything other than the act of bathing? As you adjust the water to the right temperature, feel the water. Acknowledge the temperature in your mind as too hot or too cold or just right. Step into the shower, feel the water over your body. Move slowly, without rushing to grab soap or shampoo. When you use them, be aware of the smells. Be mindful of the body parts you wash and the thoughts that come to mind. When you find your mind wandering, bring it back to the shower. Mindfulness is not just watching yourself think, but it is also fully experiencing your senses and emotions in the moment. You let thoughts happen in the background of your attention to what you are actually doing and experiencing now.
START A COOKING PRACTICE
While you are preparing your food, be aware of every scent. Do the same when the cooking begins. And also when the cooking is over. Notice color. Notice texture. Notice every nuance of those scents. Notice your mind wander to memories associated with those smells. Notice your mind wander to the future, imagining the taste of the meal. The point is to notice everything that is happening now, including the thoughts in your mind. As you chop vegetables, let your breath sync with your actions. I like to send healing thoughts to my food as I prepare it. I’ve done this many times over simple salads for family dinners. They’re usually large salads and I spend a good deal of time cutting cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and herbs, etc. As I touch each veggie, I silently bless them. The salads are always a huge hit, though nobody can ever pinpoint why. Try this and notice the difference in the taste of your food.
EAT WITH INTENTION
How often do we eat our food on the run? Standing? We eat without paying attention. We race through meals, barely tasting our food. Eating is not only a wonderful opportunity for mindfulness, it is also a deliciously rewarding one. Before putting a bite in your mouth, take a moment to smell your food. Inhale the aromas long enough to trigger your salivary glands. Smell each individual ingredient as well as the overall scent of the combined food. When you place food in your mouth, don’t chew it right away. Feel your taste buds and what they do. Move the food in your mouth, exploring texture and taste. Feel yourself chew. Don’t rush to swallow. Be present with the experience of smell, taste and texture. Notice how amazing food is when we pay this much attention.
Your mind is your greatest tool, master it and watch how effortless life can be.