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May 20, 2016

Do Less, Be More: Presence is a Practice.

Flickr/Asja Boroš

I made a decision to repeat the words “I am enough, I have enough, I do enough,” every morning to remind myself that I am good enough right now—not because of what I’ve accomplished or what I plan to do, but simply because I am worthy just as I am right now, waking up bad-breath’d and bed-headed.

Ever since I began to begin my days with this mantra, I have naturally created a more sustainable pace in my daily schedule, and ultimately, my life. This mental training takes practice. The practice leads to a mindset, a mindfulness mindset that actually makes my life feel more full, while doing less.

I am not quite perfect at it yet—like any practice, I must repeat often and regularly. It helps me to believe, and I really believe that every moment of every day is an opportunity to start the day over. Sometimes I get halfway through the day and repeat the “I am enough” mantra, because I have forgotten self-kindness, and I fall back into the striving for something different…or better…or more.

Sometimes while waiting at a traffic light, I want to reach for my cell phone to check the ubiquitous text messages or change the song or make a call, and I remind myself that this moment is enough. I remind myself to simply drive when driving. When I am standing up while eating my hurried lunch for the fourth day in a row, I remind myself to just eat while I am eating.

“Do this to just do this. Don’t do this to do that,” I heard actor Willem Dafoe say in an interview not too long ago and it spoke right to my core. From the way that I connect with others, to the way I have approached sports, my career and relationships—I have often spent too much time longing for the way things were or imagining how they could be better.

Sometimes we spend so much time preparing for the perfect relationship, the best body and the right job that we forget to appreciate the gifts of what we already have. My striving for excellence even affected my playtime. Instead of just enjoying, I was always “in training” for that next climb, marathon or kite-surfing trick. I was robbing myself of presence and pleasure, even in my own leisure activities! How we show up anywhere is how we show up everywhere—it wasn’t just in work or relationships. By being so focused on getting better, I forgot to be enough.

I take my time now when learning a new kite-surfing trick, yoga pose or heading out for a training run. Instead of coming from a striving, need-to-get-better mindset, I go with the flow, listen to my body and move from a more natural place—the present—with ease. (And less injuries!)

Presence is a practice.

Here are a few tips to help rein yourself in at any time, day or night. Call them mantras, principles or teachings—whatever you would like—just use them!

1. There is nowhere else you need to be than right now. As Tibetan Buddhist nun, Ani Pema Chodron advises, “Welcome the present moment as if you had invited it. It’s all we ever have, so we might as well work with it rather than struggle against it.”

2. Practice loving-kindness and acceptance—with yourself and the world. We only suffer because we expect things to be different than they are.

3. Create your own mantra which anchors you to the present moment. “I am _______.” “This moment is enough.” “Do this to just do this.” Whatever it is, use it daily!

Don’t wait for your birthday or a holiday to give the gift of self-love and self-acceptance. When we give ourselves permission to be raw, messy, authentic and real about who we are—not our striving, future selves or our past awesome accomplished selves, but our in-the-moment-figuring-out-this-life-as-we-go-along-selves—we become more relatable to others and others feel more willing to be the same way with us.

You know that old adage, we teach what we need to learn most—I work on this worthy-presence stuff every day, so when you meet me (and I hope you do someday), remind me that if I step out of the moment and into wishing, wanting or expecting something different—not to. Remind me that this moment is enough—and so am I. So are you.

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Author: Jill Wheeler

Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

Photo: Flickr/Asja Boroš

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Jill Wheeler