It all started in yoga.
"You in the purple pants -- would you like to be in class today?" the lithe instructor chirped.
"Uh, I am in class," I said, as I stood sweating my eyelash extensions off in the middle of a Bikram class. Standing erect in what I thought was a damn good tree pose, I noticed everyone else well into the floor series. I had somehow spaced out, thinking about a much-needed mammogram, a grocery list and afternoon meetings.
"Oh, you mean pay attention. Okay, yes I want to be in class."
I fell to the floor, trying mental tricks I had learned over many mediation tapes and classes to stay present in the hot class. I pictured a revolving door taking my thoughts out of my head, but as my thoughts went out they turned around and came right back in the same door. I tried to let my racing ideas leave my head and float away, but they clung to the yoga room ceiling, glaring down at me.
I finally came up with my own tactic. I imagined a bright light above my head that vacuumed up all my thoughts. This light/thought bubble held onto the ones I might need later, but burned up and threw away the useless, angry, jealous, critical thoughts.
I was able to be in my body for the rest of class, but as soon as we laid down in shavasana I raced to my phone and went about the rest of my week in a state of complete distraction.
Next, I did what any busy mother would do. I stopped going to yoga all together. I figured, what's the point of going if I shoot out of my meditation or yoga class even more distracted and stressed then when I went in?
Shortly after this incident a dear, vibrant, beautiful friend of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer. A woman with boundless energy, she gave to everyone and ran her successful salon all while raising her young son.
Within months of the diagnosis, I was standing in her hospital room with an annoyingly chipper doctor telling us that there was absolutely nothing they could do. In what was the last lucid moment I would see my friend experience, she looked at me right in the eye and said, "I got so gypped."
A sadness I have never seen in anyone washed over her, but her feistiness came right back. "I hate you," she said nonchalantly to the doctor and she grabbed my hand, commanding "don't get gypped. Enjoy EVERYTHING."
The nurses came in, loaded her up on medication and she was gone into an oxy/cancer haze. As I walked out of the hospital, I realized that I can't enjoy anything if I am not present in the moment. Even in painful moments like that one. So, I imagined that same bright thought bubble above my head, felt the ground under my feet, and promised to be more present in my life. Since then, my friend has passed but the gift of being in my life remains.
Whenever I find my mind racing, distracted away from what is going on in the moment (which is very very often), I do these steps:
1) I take a deep breath
2) I feel where my body is touching something -- my feet on the ground, my butt in a chair, hands on the steering wheel
3) I take another breath and let my thoughts get sucked up by that bright light above me
4) I pay attention to what is going on right then in the moment, feeling what I am hearing, smelling and seeing
In doing this regularly, I have found that I am a little more relaxed, a little bit happier, and I even deal better with difficult situations. Free from past irritations or future worries, I can be in my life in a more productive and positive way.
I hope these tips help you too. Try it today and let me know what happens.