Especially When “The Moment” Isn’t Much Fun.
As a yoga instructor, I spend more time than the “average Joe” reminding folks to stay in the moment. It’s probably safe to say that I spend more time than most trying to stay in the moment myself. That said, I also have an advantage. I get to spend an awful lot of time in yoga studios – places designed to help people shed the cares of their days and sink into the moment for the 60 or 90 minutes they’ve dedicated to the practice.
Despite this advantage, I find staying in the moment incredibly (almost ridiculously) hard at times. Not when I’m teaching or practicing yoga, of course! Those hours are some of the most focused and content of my days. Those hours remind me how great it feels to be fully absorbed in what you are doing. They are really great practice for living in the moment.
But when I wander off my mat or out of my studio and am smacked in the face by the scheduling demands, complex logistics and far-reaching plans of the rest of my life, I struggle mightily. I keep trying, but, somehow, I haven’t yet figured out how to sink deeply into a moment in my kitchen when I’m preparing dinner, answering the phone, shooing the dog away from the table and trying to carry on a conversation with (usually) more than one child.
I’m not the only one in my house who struggles with this concept. Since she was tiny, my daughter has wanted to know The Plan. As soon as she could talk, she would greet me, “Morning, Mommy! What are we doing today?” And she wanted a chronological, blow by blow, not a vague sketch. As she’s gotten older, she’s developed a little worry-wart streak. She’s capable of getting stirred up over something weeks or months in the future. I’ve watched her distract herself from the excitement of an opportunity because her mind gets tangled up in all the things that could go wrong. All this can make it really hard for her to sink into the moment.
Like any mom, I yearn for my children to avoid some of the sticky spots of life that I got stuck in. Therefore, after a particularly memorable, mid-summer meltdown about the coming school year, we worked pretty hard to just enjoy summer. Typically, when I tuck her in on vacation, she’ll say, “6 more nights!” or “Only 2 more nights.” This year, I gently kissed those words away and asked her to list the great things about that day instead. We tried to leave our days (somewhat) unplanned to see what would happen. When people started talking “back to school” in mid-August, we playfully covered our ears.
I wasn’t aware that she was taking our little summer project so seriously until the night before school started. As I tucked her in, she tearfully said, “We tried so hard to keep summer, Mommy, but now school is here.” As she cried, a crucial piece in the living in the moment jigsaw puzzle fell into place for me. Yes, being in the moment is enjoying summer full-throttle, each and every day rather than allowing thoughts and worries about the coming school year to distract you. That’s the easy part – and the part we hear about most often.
But, being in the moment means being with the hard stuff, too. To honestly live in the moment, we must sink into sadness, pain or loneliness as willingly as we sink into joy, gratitude or pleasure. When we’re living in the moment, therefore, endings can be harder than if we were distracted. But, there is a silver lining. When we’re this aware, we can see past the pain of a good-bye, to realize the mix of our emotions. We can be deeply sad that summer is over and simultaneously excited and nervous about the start of a new school year. We don’t have to resolve these mixed up feelings. We just have to feel them.
So I hugged my crying girl and told her exactly that. Like her, I was sad about summer ending, but I was excited to see what the new year would bring our way. Don’t you know she woke up with a huge smile on her face? Of course, she also wanted to know what was for breakfast, when the bus would come, what I would be doing all day, when would she be home and what was for dinner, too. I guess she’s taking baby steps toward this living in the moment stuff just like me!
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