Being Present is a Present


I have spent a bit of time this past week talking about something that we all strive for; to be PRESENT in our own lives. An example I often use is we each can think of a time when we got in the car and drove to our destination and then once we arrived, we realized that we don’t really recall the actual drive; we have no specific memory of what we saw along the way. Perhaps we were caught up in a song on the radio, or preoccupied with our own thoughts, but all we know is we went from there to here with no attention to the journey. Sometimes we live more in the present and sometimes less so.

It seems simple enough…pay attention and smell the roses….. yet it is anything but simple. We have to PRACTICE how to be PRESENT; on the mat and off.

On the mat we focus on the inhale and the exhale, we pay deep attention to where we are looking in each pose (drishti), not to stop us from looking at our neighbor, but instead to enhance the pose by directing the body.

We use our drishti (gaze) to focus fully on one thing but at the same time work to not get distracted by the actual thing we are looking at, rather use it as a tool to be present in the moment. We are told to clear the mind and focus into the body so we are aware and in touch with what is happening on the mat.

In Savasana we are asked to let the body go but be truly present in the mind. Just like those car rides, we have all had a savasana where we sit up after and wonder where it went, our mind had been distracted with where we were going next; what was on the top of the to-do list, and we lost those precious moments that we had worked so hard for.

It’s really easy to talk about being present in a happy moment and not missing the everyday little miracles but it is also important to be present during the tough times. We learn so much from being present in those moments as well.

I learned that lesson 4 years ago. My daughter was starting kindergarten and I met Lisa, a mom of little boy in the class. We were just beginning a friendship but we both felt a connection. Whenever we would see each other we would talk in a way that felt like we had known each other for a long time. One day in December I received a voicemail message just as I was about to step into a yoga class. The message was from Lisa’s husband telling me that Lisa had been diagnosed with colon cancer and she wanted to know if Yoga could help her.

The next day I went to her hospital room and we talked about the breath. We talked about focusing her energy on healing herself. I spent many hours with her breathing and moving over the next 6 months and even as I sat by her side hours before she died, we talked about how our energy and spirit move on.

After she died I was angry, angry at the universe for allowing a beautiful, dynamic 43 year old woman to die and leave her tiny children behind; angry that this amazing person who had just come into my life was already gone from this world, and angry at the sadness I had to experience by knowing her. I asked myself why? Why does someone profound come into your life only to leave you broken hearted 6 months later.

I discovered the answer. Lisa taught me so many lessons. She taught me to stay positive even when it seemed hopeless. She taught me that growing older is a privilege and I should celebrate every birthday. She taught me that I should cherish the time I have with my children…for both of us. Essentially, she taught me what it means to live in the PRESENT and what an incredible PRESENT that is.

I leave you today with the words from this poem by Gwendolyn Brooks.

Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies.

And be it gash or gold it will not come

Again in this identical disguise