is your actual life. And it's good. And beautiful. And nothing is lacking. Philosophical hogwash, you say. Doesn't she know that I have problems? That I'm sick or broke or broken hearted? That I have pressure and responsibilities? That I'm wounded or depressed or barely able to get out of bed? And I say yes, I understand. I understand the nature of problems - situations that must be dealt with. I have those myself. But how many of those can actually be fixed or resolved this red-hot minute? Really ask yourself, In this moment, do I have a satisfactory solution to this problem? It's kind of a trick question, because if you did, if your solution was really one that you felt good about, you'd either be happily doing it or have a plan to do it, in which case you'd feel peaceful and enjoying this present moment of not-doing-it-yet.
I think you will notice that when a situation truly calls for your immediate response, you're able to rise to the challenge. When faced with issues of life and death, the human animal becomes fiercely present and open to inner resources they didn't know they had. People living in war zones are present. They have to be. Most of us are not living in war zones, and yet our biology is often behaving as if we are, because our minds are running the stories of our problems, driven by fear and other feelings, which are driven by deeper, often unconscious feelings of a perceived threat of abandonment, or lack of control and/or safety - as if our very survival is at stake.
Late last fall, I had a hard time eating. Everything seemed to make my stomach hurt. I considered a trip to the doctor, but decided instead to listen to my body and just eat what I felt like it wanted. We were heading toward the holidays and I was plagued with the knowledge that my niece was terminally ill, as was my horse. While I don't remember having clear negative stories in my head, my bodymind felt out of control - because it was. I couldn't know what would happen, to who and when, as I headed out of town. This not-knowing, these out of control, up-in-the-air situations, seemed to by-pass my conscious awareness and head straight for my stomach.
By the time I arrived back home from my holiday travel, my stomach was fine. I was eating normally - just in time for a big Christmas dinner. But I couldn't help but notice what my body had done. Yes, the situations were understandably challenging and unarguably true, but my stories about them, and their manifestation in my stomach, were strictly Shelly-created.
It turns out that my niece's funeral the following March and my horse's passing a few weeks later were not the dark-cloud days that my bodymind had conjured up and rehearsed. Instead they were two of the most profoundly beautiful and potently spiritual days of my life. I remember the bright, rich quality of each day and how the colors around me seemed more vivid. I remember a sense being completely still inside, yet highly alert and aware at the same time. And I remember feeling acutely alive - that kind of alive that only happens when everything else falls away, time stands still, and now is all there is. Now is all that matters.
And I'm noticing more and more, that I don't have to wait for moments like these before I can be fiercely present, because Presence is waiting - with me, inside of me, all around me, all the time. All it takes is a subtle glance in its direction, and all of a sudden it's like I've stepped away from a really compelling movie in a dark movie theatre and out into the bright light of day with a sense of, Oh right. This is what's real. Or as if someone just cranked up the big cosmic dimmer switch. The birds start singing louder, my dog seems even cuter, and a flood of blessings washes over me - not because I look for them, but because they're already there.
This subtle shift beyond the stories about my life, places me firmly in my life, as life. And in such moments, that red-hot minute . . . it's perfect.
When the compulsive striving away from the Now ceases, the joy of Being flows into everything you do. The moment your attention turns to the Now, you feel a presence, a stillness, a peace,… You have found a life underneath your life situation. Elkhart Tolle
I've heard this said a number of times on Sedona Method support calls. It's a bit of a mind-bender, but I have only to look at my horses or the wildlife around me to get it.
Animals are fully present and engaged in the Now, even while in the throes of their doingness. While eating grass, they're not thinking about their next trip to the creek or where they will stand if a storm comes. It's one thing for us humans to sit in meditation and quiet our minds, but how easy it is, while driving the car, cleaning house, or simply engaging in our early morning rituals, to leave the present moment and follow our minds into the imagined future.
The advantage that animals have is that they are never not grounded. So following their example I try to remind my clients and myself to, Feel your feet. While driving the car, washing the dishes, or mowing the grass, I try to simply notice my feet - really notice the different parts of my feet on both feet. And I notice my breathing. I don't try to change it or fix it or take deep breaths, I simply try to notice the muscles I'm using when I inhale and exhale. It gives my mind something constructive to do and creates a bridge between my mind and body, which grounds me in the present moment.
You might also try feeling your hands - when you wash the dishes, drive your car, or pull weeds. Standing in line at the post office, grocery store, or sitting at a red light is a perfect opportunity to breathe and locate your Self in your body.
The mind tries to trick us into thinking that we must spend a lot of time listening to its theories, what-ifs, and strategies about the imagined future. And it hooks us into believing that we are actually very close to some sort of resolution that will ultimately help us feel peaceful, safe, and happy. But the time we spend listening to the mind's plans for future happiness, does not feel good. The planning mind typically creates a mild dis-ease or tension in our bodies, that we usually don't notice since it feels so normal.
Take it from the animals, unless the predator in the bushes is actually running toward you, there's nothing you need to do, nothing you need to make happen right this second. When it's time to drink, you'll know. When it's time to move to higher ground, you'll know. Until then, your best protection, your greatest happiness and sense of wellbeing, lies in being fully available and present to your own inner guidance. And that can only happen when you're fully in the Now.
I like the following suggestion from an excerpt of one of David Whyte's poems called: What To Remember When Waking
In the first
in which you wake,
to this life
from the other
there is a small
into the new day
What you can plan
is too small
for you to live.
What you can live
will make plans
for the vitality
hidden in your sleep.
To be human
is to become visible
what is hidden
as a gift to others.
the other world
in this world
is to live your
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