The Power of Presence

Do you ever get stuck in your head?  It is certainly a lovely place full of roundabout logic, random thoughts, and worries about the future.  I know.  I go there often.  It’s quite addicting actually.   Add a society focused so hard on productivity and accomplishment and we have a recipe for a never-ending vortex.

It’s easy to get stuck there.  The more we think the harder we’re working, right?  As a culture, we value hard work.  The harder you work, the closer you get to happiness.  If I do this, then I will be happy.  If I accomplish that, I will finally be able to rest and enjoy it.  We think we are looking for happiness and peace but don’t realize we made a wrong turn long ago and that’s when the vortex became so addicting.
For a very long time I thought that physical life experiences were a much more noble cause than having.  I could wrap my head around the idea that material objects weren’t what I needed to give me the sense of accomplishment.  I thought, if I want to truly live life I had to “do” things, go places, accomplish things.  I valued an experience more than some material object. Not a bad idea, right?
Wanting to experience things isn’t bad.  But I realized, however, that I wasn’t really enjoying myself during those experiences.
Errands used to stress me out.  They still can if I’m not careful.  Having a list of things to do and a certain amount of time would actually increase my stress.  I would feel the muscles in my shoulders tighten and my breath shorten as I went through my tasks.  I hated grocery shopping.  I’d take my list put my head down and steer my cart frantically through the store.  Just one more thing to finish before I could start to enjoy my day.
I worked for years to hone my skills professionally.  I checked all the accomplishments off my list. With each new challenge met, I was soon looking for another. I wanted to learn more.  Do more.  Which by itself isn’t a bad thing.  The problem was, it wasn’t making me happy.  I just had more responsibility, more stress and more worry.  Of course, this led to pushing harder, looking for more.  And the vortex was born.  Never-ending and cyclical.
So what changed?
Yoga.  Specifically, the quality of presence that it brought to my life.
Like most people I was attracted to yoga because of the physical components.  When done in the classic sense of the practice, yoga is a beautiful mix of balance, strength, flexibility and power.
But I soon found that in order to be effective physically, the first step was awareness.  As a physical therapist I preach all day long the value of body awareness.  It is amazing how many people are so detached from their bodies.  Being able to simply know where your body is in space is a very profound skill.  But in order to do this we have to get out of our heads.  As I have started getting into working with energy, have realized this process is called ‘grounding’.
Grounding is bringing your awareness out of your imaginings, reasonings and thoughts and into your body. More specifically where your body is in space and how it relates to the physical environment around it.
Every moment is a choice.  We can make the choice to think and do as much as humanly possible until our bodies start giving us warnings- in the form of back pain, acid reflux, neck pain, headaches the list goes on and on.  Or we can decide to change our focus.  Take a moment to “ground.”  Bring your awareness into your body or even just your breath for just a few moments.  Eventually those moments add up.
But most of all, now I have realized that I would rather be than do.  How hard is it to simply exist, to sit in the stillness of now?  Grounding brings me closer to that.  Add a little gratitude for all that life has to offer, and that is pure magic.
Those are special moments.
And that is presence.