Practicing the Present

Present:   being, existing, or occuring at this time now.
In this crazy, 24/7, non-stop media, facebook, twittering frenzy world it is hard sometimes not to be distracted.  Incredibly hard sometimes.  Add something difficult in life and become even more scattered or frenzied.  There have been times in my life where I have been completely fractured and really only paying attention to the distractions.  And there have been times when I’ve been completely self-obsessed to the point of not being able to hear the other person who is in the room.   There have also been times where my pain was louder than anything else. It’s those times that being present with what is actually brings more peace than trying to out-think, solutionize or rationalize.

Coming from those experiences, I have learned to watch out for different things and practice being present for each and every moment.  When I am in conversation with someone and my brain is rattling off things that I want to say or comments or being whitty or sarcastic, if I can stop and pause for a moment before I say something, I am more aware of my ego trying to speak.  Instead of obsessively thinking about a problem, I find some gratitude for what I currently have in my life.  When I am unhappy or angry with a situation, I step back and look at it and ask myself “Am I frustrated because I am afraid and responding from a place that doesn’t have anything to do with today?”  Taking that pause, stepping back, doesn’t make me ineffective, it creates space for me to pay attention to what is going on right at that moment.  And it gives me space to respond differently and look differently at my current set of circumstances.  If I take a moment to pause, I become more aware of what is and not what things should be.   In yogic philosophy this is the practice of Santosha or contentment.  And sometimes, what is is not such a bad place to be.  



 So, very painfully, I crept into a new chiropractor’s office last week. No physical yoga practice for 10 days.  And when I start again, it won’t look like anything that I’ve been practicing.  No, this is called slow progress back.  And it was time to take the practice of yoga from one of the eight-limbs and reflect on the other 7 and how I’m practicing or not practicing.  For those not familiar, there’s a great article from Yoga Journal about it:
1.  Yamas – this is how we practice off the mat with others.  There are five of them:
Ahimsa: nonviolence =  I pushed and ignored my body, and my body-workers recommendations and didn’t do some much needed self-care.
Satya: truthfulness = Was I lying to myself about how things were affecting me?
Asteya: nonstealing = Am I’m stealing someone’s time by not following good advice, procrastinating, time wasting, etc.
Brahmacharya:  the idea of walking like God.   Am I doing that in my actions with others or am I feeding my ego or having thoughts that do not serve?
Aparigraha: non-hoarding, not grasping.  This has literally manifested in the right side of my back. My right hand literally grips.  What am I gripping and holding onto so tightly?  What do I need to let go of?
2.  Niyamas – self-discipline and spiritual observances.  There are five of these.
Saucha: cleanliness = What am I putting into my body?  Am I putting in sugary foods to make me feel good?
Samtosa: contentment.  Am I present with today?  Can I cultivate gratitude for what I have right now?
Tapas: heat; spiritual austerities.  Ahh, what is also known as the friction of conflict.  Sitting right in the middle of this right now.
Svadhyaya: Self-study, reading of the sutras, mantras.  Suddenly I have way more time for this.  But self-study is not limited to reading of these books, it’s the application of this.  Taking time to reflect, taking an inventory of my life and thoughts at this moment.
Isvara pranidhana: Surrendering to God.  Some people reading this will know a whole bunch about this.  Surrendering to what is.    To sit before a teacher and learn.  The understanding that you are a small part in a greater universe.
3.  Asana. (physical posture practice)  This one is out.
4.  Pranayama – breathwork.  Thought I’d actually try and practice that 45 minutes a day BKS Iyengar suggests but he also said if there is a back issue don’t do it.
5. Pratyahara – withdrawl of the senses.  First stages of a meditation practice.  Why yes, I have time for a daily practice now.  Simply closing the eyes.
6.  Dharana – focused attention. Another phase of meditation practice, focusing on an object, diety or mantra.  Keeping the focus regardless of noise outside or a noisy fly. 
7.  Dhyana – meditation.  The prior two get us in the arena.  This is staying in the arena.  Staying with the stillness.  
8.  Samadhi –  Deep down, we all want peace.  This is the realization and experience of that peace.   While vigorous asana practice has brought me to this place, as my teacher says, don’t grasp onto that as the goal everytime.  Because you may not get there.  So it becomes the practice.    So I bring myself to the mat or cushion, with the idea that I may not get here.  This is the discipline.  

So out of this, stems a new appreciation for my practice.  It is also making me a better teacher as I can’t physically demonstrate so I get to explain things really well.  And I get the opportunity to walk around more and physically adjust people rather than get caught up in demonstrating.