Sometimes I completely zone out of life.
This is usually because I’m avoiding my emotions or feeding into my fears, most of which I’d like to blame on biology and my adrenal glands. I’m only human, after all, but I’d like to be perfectly present and enlightened.
In order to measure my own present awareness, I’ve come up with the six following (non-scientific) tests:
1. The Bathroom Test:
This is typically how I decide whether or not I am “there” on any given day. I wake up a lot of days and stumble into the bathroom with my to-do list making me hyperventilate. Within the first 30 seconds of my waking life I’m on the toilet and I clench, clench, clench and push, push, push. If I’m extremely distracted, I’ll have my phone in my hand and be checking my text messages as if shove the poop out of my intestines like it’s a national emergency. Clearly the act of being on the pooper scares the crap out of me enough (pun intended) that I need the comfort of another human being to hold my hand (especially if they don’t know it) on a virtual plane.
Even my poop stresses me out. Do I squat? Should I sit? Is my sphincter relaxed enough?
So, the question remains—are you bringing your phone into the bathroom with you? Is it a crucial part of your daily peeing process to check Snapchat as you sit your perfectly yoga-ed ass on the cold porcelain of the Starbucks toilet seat? Are you so worried about pooping properly that you can’t poop?
If this is the case (as is it often is for me) then stop. Wait. Relax. Read a Joel Stein article on the toilet seat. Inhale, exhale, be present in (I mean, with) your intestines.
2. The Posture Test:
If your spine had a voice (I’m pretty sure mine might be developing one at this point) what would it be saying to you? Are you able to hear it, or or you hunching over as you read this article, eyes squinted, with your gaze piercing my words?
If so, get glasses. Then rock perfect alignment.
On days that I’m not there, or trying to block out the world, my emotions, and my life and begin to drown in that lovely little pool of self-pity, I typically slouch over. I hinge at my ribcage and allow myself to start collapsing into my internal organs (sorry liver). I become small, and dark, dark thoughts begin circling into my head. Thoughts of self-loathing. Thoughts that I am not good enough, or beautiful enough, or worthy enough to be human because somewhere deep down inside I know that I’m letting my own insecurities get to me. Then I begin letting go of my self-control. I start being reactive to the world around me, instead of dealing with the world. On these days I tell myself I am too tired, or too weary, or too broken down to be here and now. That I’m too tired to sit straight, buck up, and fly right.
All of that is a total lie. I’m never too tired to sit a little straighter, so I’m calling bullshit on you, mind. I’m standing up, chest lifted and sacrum stable, and choosing to be here.
3. The Verbiage Test:
I have a few bad verbal habits that start when I’m not paying attention to the words I’m actually saying. These bad verbal habits started in high school when I thought I was really cool and include saying “Dude” as many times as Ashton Kutcher in “Dude Where’s My Car?” and temporarily turning into Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad with the amount of “yo’s” that I throw in after statements.
Pay attention to what you’re saying, yo.
But more disturbingly, I end up with a lot of uncertainty in my verbiage. “Let me know!”’s trail at the end of each of my plan-making text messages and maybe’s are sprinkled a little too heavily into the recipe of my vocabulary.
When this happens, I try to re-ground myself and reconsider the purpose of the conversation and find my voice again.
4. The Water Test:
When I’m not “here” and start going off into lands strange and unknown that I probably shouldn’t be traveling (the dark, winding pathways of nonsense and beauty that my mind’s eye whirls around and where it creates spiraling pictures of reality), I usually haven’t been keeping track of my water intake for the day. I’d like to say I have these intense thoughts because I’m a genius and my creativity simply flourishes through perpetual unbalance, but more truthfully, I’m probably just riding happily upon the delusions of dehydration.
Mild hallucinations (just kidding) and getting lost in my own non-reality can be especially fun sometimes, but more often than not, dehydration impedes my ability to enjoy the here and now and I end up having anxiety about little things like whether or not eating a yogurt will change the destiny of my life.
Moral of the story? I should drink water, and so should you. We don’t live in the Sierra Desert for a reason.
5. The Social Media Test:
Perpetual checking of the social media can become a habit that gets ingrained pretty quickly in my mind. I get what I like to call social media whiplash. It usually starts out that I check my Facebook page for a legitimate reason—I’m waiting for a message from my editors at elephant journal or a reply back from a family member or friend.
And then, all of a sudden, Facebook becomes my every other click. I check it in between sentences, when I can’t figure out what word I want to use next, when I start to feel an uncomfortable emotion bubbling up inside of me. Facebook becomes my solution, and I end up getting lost in it to distract myself instead of dealing with the problems of the here and now.
It’s sort’ve like snacking, when you stand in front of the refrigerator with the door wide open for ten minutes because you can’t figure out what to eat next, so you start grasping for everything you can get your hands on in the fridge, except Facebook style.
6. The ‘How Loud is My Radio’ Test
When I’m not really present (or overcaffeinated), I have the unfortunate habit of turning B96 (my local pop radio station) up to full level in my car. I don’t realize that this has happened until I pull into wherever I’m getting to and pause for a second, becoming aware of the fact that Drake can be heard cooing, “Talk Dirty to Me” from three blocks away and that I’m probably still dancing in my car.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Lizzie Kramer / Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Charlie Brown Comic