Yoga Lesson Learned: The Power of the Present

11/28/2011 03:50 pm ET | Updated Jan 28, 2012

In our new movie "Yogawoman," world-renowned yoga teacher Angela Farmer says:

"Very little in life invites you to notice how you're really feeling, notice who you really are in this moment."

That comment speaks directly to me every time I watch "Yogawoman," and reminds me that getting in touch with my quiet inner world is essential in the clutter of my daily life.

A few years back while I was still breast-feeding and raising a toddler, I was having some much-needed therapy to help me be a parent and wife who raised my children without the imprint of my own abandoned childhood patterning. For my appointments I would inevitably leave home a few minutes late, speed through the traffic and plonk myself in my therapist's chair, at which point she would ask, 'So how are you feeling today?'

I would try to think quickly, not wanting to waste a precious expensive second, and my thoughts would collide in a big heap and then ... blank. I had nothing to report.

How was I feeling? Who was I?

Life was busy, I was a bit run-down, depleted from breast-feeding, wondering what there was in the fridge for dinner, thinking simultaneously about some work ideas and the amount of washing powder we had left ... and probably fairly sleep deprived!

It would usually take me at least ten minutes to find some threads that when joined together alerted me to how I was really feeling. Who I was in this moment?

It has become easier as the kids have grown older and I have become a more expert mutitasker with more sleep. But the "worldiness" of urban life continues to pull me outside.

Living in the middle of a big city, I feel bombarded by images, noises and tasks, thoughts that draw me away from myself. It's subtle and LOUD simultaneously. It's not that I notice what when I'm being drawn away from myself so regularly, it just happens.

I am driving along. I pull up behind a bus at the lights and there is an advertisement that shows you another flawless female 'image.' Say Sarah Jessica Parker advertising her current movie. I say image because it's not really a woman, it's a photo-shopped image of her playing a mother in her movie "I Don't Know How She Does It."

SJP looks perfect. She herself has three kids; she is a wealthy award-winning movie star, lives in glamorous NYC, wears great clothes. The mental chatter begins: "I should see that movie, maybe watch it on DVD, oh the TV's broken again, do you get it fixed these days, or buy a new one? Pip needs new footy boots, I could get them both at the same time ..."

The light turns green. Back to me. I'm intelligent. I know it's only a film. I know SJP probably has three nannies, cooks, cleaners, and grocery shoppers. I know fame and fortune don't create happiness, yet still I am pulled out of myself to compare, absorb, feel anxiety about my own hair needing a cut, my old underwear, sunburnt skin, whether I'll die of skin cancer.

And back to myself again. Now. The breath. Inhale, space, exhale, release. Ease. Calm.

What's so helpful about yoga is you do all that on the mat as well -- in the class, as you learn to experiment with your mind in your own quiet lab experiment.

In the very quiet of the class my thoughts can be so loud that I am surprised my yoga neighbors on both sides can't hear them. I can't hear the teacher. I am paralyzed for a moment while my mind wanders off to distant places, and finally I jolt back and I am the last standing in a room full of forward bends.

So in yoga I get to practice: thoughts, distraction, breathe, now. Thoughts, distraction, breathe, now. The pattern continues and I slowly learn how my mind gets so easily drawn away, and then I learn how easily I can draw it back again to who I am now.

Now allows me to notice I have too much on. Now allows me to experience what I have eaten. Now allows me to hear what I have just said. Now allows me to observe how I respond.

When I strive for something other than now I realize it sets off a chain of discontent. I am anxious for my children's future, I yell at the family as I panic about time and the school bus, I criticize who I am now. None of this makes me feel great, feel at ease or give me any sense of the divine moments in life.

My intention for this week is remembering the peace of now. It's to be compassionate with myself when I forget and get drawn into the drama, then breathe and once again notice how I'm really feeling, and who I am in this moment.

Thanks, Angela Farmer.