The power went out today.
One minute I was hard at work typing away, mind racing on to the next four things on my agenda, prepared to power through and get it all done. No time to take a break or reflect on the day. Just finish my work.
The next minute, everything stopped.
The quiet was jarring. Without the lights, white noise, and ten open tabs, all I was left with was a mental cacophony. Has silence always been this loud?
I have to admit that for all of the talk I do about mindfulness and acceptance, all of that unresolved thought was uncomfortable. I definitely felt myself fighting the moment.
My busy mind wanted to grab and hold on to the remaining threads of thought so that I didn’t forget what I was doing and, most importantly to me at the time, so that I didn’t “waste” my time.
Obviously, the universe had other plans for my day. The quiet set in, the storm outside grew in intensity, and I realized this might take a while. There was no way around it. I was going to need to let go.
It took me a few minutes of thinking “what should I do with myself” before I finally realized that there was literally nothing I could do right then – except just be. It felt wrong at first, like calling in sick when you’re perfectly fine.
As I sat with it, I saw that the discomfort didn’t actually mean I was doing something wrong. It was just a sign of having simmered too long in a chattering mind.
I also saw that being present isn’t all that complicated. You look around and notice the things that have been covered up by the world behind a screen. When I looked today, I saw the sky wrapped in a grey fleece blanket and rain drops tracing patterns as they raced one another down panes of glass.
You listen and hear the things that have been silenced by the roar of analyzing, planning, and worrying coming from your own head. When I listened today, I heard the rain tap dance on the roof and the thunder shaking the sky.
And you feel what it’s like to inhabit your body. That strange, wonderful place you’ve been living since you were a little bean. As I sat in this tiny square room where I spend forty-tive hours a week, I acknowledged the space that was left by the absence of tension, worry, and annoyance. I felt at ease.
I took a deep breath and smiled. Evidently, I’d been missing out on this.
There are so many moments just like this that we’ll never see. Not because they aren’t happening, but because we just don’t hang out and soak it all in.
You can still do this, even when you’re busy, even when you’re counting down the hours until you get to call it a day, even when you’re home and exhausted and well past your threshold for questions. You can even be present when you just want to hurry up and get this season of life over with already.
Being present doesn’t necessarily mean doing less or being less productive, by the way. I actually think it works the other way around.
Allowing yourself to look, listen, and inhabit your body can help you do more. @ralph_leslie (Click to Tweet!)
Because in the end it isn’t a thing you’re doing, it’s a way of doing things.
Rather than grinding through life, cursing under your breath when something throws you off, and digging in your heels as you try to change the current of the ocean (as if that ever gets us anywhere), you begin to bend and flow. You use what you’re given and start finding appreciation for those little things that are all falling into place.
When you learn to look, listen, and inhabit your body, you stop spending your precious energy on the things that only tear you down, and you start to focus on those things that lift you up or move you forward.
The more you practice being, the better you get to know yourself, too. With this knowledge comes the trust in yourself to know when what you really need is time to rest or heal.
At any given moment, there are no less than ten thousand things in your head. There’s the things you want to hold on to, the things you want to get rid of, and the things you want to fix and control (just to name a few). All of them try to convince you that they’re the most important thing. EVER.
The thing is, they’re not. At least not all at that very moment.
We all have limited brain power, as much as we hate to admit it. Practicing the process of being helps you clear the mental clutter. It’s like tossing that unopened mail from 2014 and opening the windows for the first time after a long winter. Yeah, mindfulness can feel that good.
I can hear some of you asking whether this would just mean turning a blind eye to the realities of life or settling for mediocrity.
It’s true that the world’s not perfect. Living in the moment and being present means accepting that there will be imperfections. Probably a lot of them. What we often do with imperfections is try to force them away, reject them, and deny them, all while holding on to our beliefs about what “should” be with a white-knuckled grip.
We do this whether we have any control over the situation or not.
As you may well know, trying to force things into the one version you can see is not only ineffective, it can be limiting.
Sometimes we need a door we really want to go through to close before we see the infinitely better one just a few steps away.
When the power came back on today, I realized how loud and bright everything is. The overhead light overpowered the soft glow of the sun through the clouds. The air conditioner and computer coming back on muted the rustling leaves and the sound of cars driving through the puddles.
Everyone hurried off to work, tucked neatly away into a tiny space for the rest of the day.
Wait a minute…really? Back to work just like that?
Well, yes and no. Sometimes we do need to get back to work and let a moment pass. Trying to hold on to the good things that are on their way out is just as frustrating as trying to block out all the things you don’t want.
Isn’t it funny how just a few minutes ago I was frustrated by the power going out?
So yes, I did go back to work, but this time I’d taken a little piece of my moment of being with me. I realized that being present doesn’t need you to do anything fancy. It doesn’t only happen on a tropical vacation or moment of bliss. It can happen any time, anywhere, no matter what you’re up to.
Being present requires one thing: your intention. So I intend to keep looking, keep listening, and keep inhabiting this body I’ve been given.
What’s your intention?
Leslie Ralph helps working (and otherwise busy + overwhelmed) moms work a happy lifestyle. With her signature blend of happy living projects, positive psychology tips, and delicious meditations, she’ll get you bringing back the balance, transforming chaos into cozy, and savoring time with your sweeties. To get you started, she’s whipped up a 2-Minute Revitalizing Meditation for you to enjoy on the house at http://www.ayearofhappy.com/revitalize.
Image courtesy of unsplash.com.