Holding back the happiness has become a form of self-defense a suit of armor inlaid with spikes stripping the soul of all color A perversion of pleasure believed to be undeserved the conviction that hardships will hurt worse with contrast Let your heart lift with the certainty that there are no prerequisites for celebration the spirit is free to sing at its leisure relinquish the reigns of self-affliction Wrap your heart in layers of joy so when the rain comes, as it must you will have a safe harbor of happiness to sustain you from within Don't ever feel you must deny yourself life's most simple, innocent delights don't leave your soul to starve without its natural nourishment I promise you've already earned your small share of sunshine don't waste your life wondering if you are worthy You've won the lottery of merely living each automatic breath is a reminder that you deserve to be here and thoroughly enjoy it whenever you can
I’ve noticed that a lot of people, including myself, that have tried breathing exercises or mindfulness practices come away from them feeling as though they don’t work. For a while it was a mystery to me why some yoga classes or meditations felt so much more healing than others. I realized that the practices that weren’t able to recenter me were more like going through the motions rather than truly being present. I may have been meditating but my mind was wandering and/or my breath was short and shallow the entire time. Sometimes the internal experience does not mirror the outward manifestation of mindfulness practices.
Some days you’ll find you are just not able to focus as easily as other days. However, this does not mean that you shouldn’t try breath work or yoga or that these practices don’t provide any benefit. One thing I’ve found that helps me stay in the moment if I find myself struggling is imagining I’m writing a story. When the mind is very busy, stopping all together can feel impossible. Instead, try to describe the tiny sensations, sights, sounds, feelings that are happening around you that you normally wouldn’t pay attention to.
For example, say you are taking a quiet moment to connect with the earth. Rather than merely trying to force your mind into focusing on the breath, start writing a mental story as if you are trying to explain everything you are experiencing in that moment to someone else. Are your feet in the grass? What does that feel like? Where is the sun in the sky? Is there a breeze blowing? What sounds are there around you? Be as descriptive as possible. If you find it hard to keep your mind on this task as well, you can even bring a notebook and physically write it out on a sheet of paper.
When you start to put seemingly bland or uneventful moments into words, you realize just how much is actually going on even in stillness that you might not have noticed before. I always find this practice very soothing and pleasurable. Even if it feels like you have no time or your mind couldn’t possibly stop racing, set a timer for just 1-5 minutes. It doesn’t take long for your to settle the mind and body. You may even find you enjoy it so much that you make a little more time than you thought you’d be able to devote to this little mental, emotional, spiritual break. And if not, be grateful that you at least gave yourself one minute to rest. You deserve it.
It’s hard to find a moment where I’m not rushing blindly into the next. As if there is some final destination that I’m frantic to reach. Without even realize it, I’ve spent half my life in fast forward. It just feels like the past and the future are somehow more tangible and quantifiable than the present moment ever can be. I’m afraid to rest here precisely because it is so fragile and fleeting. Fearful that if I live in this moment, I won’t have anything to show for it a few years from now. But focusing on an imaginary future can never serve me. The happiness I say I desire above all else, can only be found right here.
For someone who is so caught up in mental machinations, it’s extremely hard to settle into the simplicity of bodily sensation and experience. Language and logic cannot hold onto the slippery, ineffable value of being just as I am. The effort to try to make sense of everything pulls me out of every moment and places me in an artificial bubble of self-awareness, severed from the here and now unfolding before me. It feels foreign to forget myself in the soft feeling of fabric against sensitive skin. My mind has become so powerful and proficient at wrestling my other senses into stale submission. Finding myself suddenly surprised to scan my body and realize, once again, I’ve bitten my finger until its stinging and bleeding. How can I continuously be so cut off from the physical manifestation of me?
Never would I have imagined that one of my life’s greatest challenges could be participating in it. I’m much better at meticulous planning and pushing and pulling myself than planting my feet mindfully in front of me with every step. How bizarre it is to attempt to do nothing, and fail so reliably. Sitting on the bank of a river, utterly unable to keep myself from casting a line again and again. Not even noticing that I’ve been fishing, then suddenly coming back to reel my over eager hook back in for the thousandth time. Not even finishing setting my intention to be silent and settle into the stillness before realizing that damn bobber is already back on the surface of the water. The stamina of my persistence and patience needs to be built up, and that will take time. I’ve been strengthening my practice of falling into frustration these past 28 years. I must allow myself to surrender to the possibility it may take 28 years to rectify that habit.
It seemed simple and exciting when I first stumbled upon the ancient knowledge of yoga, mindfulness, and meditation and learned all that I truly desired was already mine. Little did I know that getting to a point where I was capable of granting myself permission to enjoy it would be a tremendously tedious and time-consuming trial. I must constantly remind myself that my repeatedly frustrated efforts, my failures, my relapses, my misdirections are all worth it. I want life to be easy, but I need it to be challenging so that I may learn and grow and develop into a being I can be proud of.
Every moment can be a celebration, a chance to be grateful, when I remember that I’ve already reached the destination I’ve been striving for. Every time I take a deep breath and notice the world around me is a victory. I won’t be discouraged by my many mistakes and missteps. They cannot spoil the joy contained within the rare moments where I manage to be fully present. Small successes still count. Whether I feel like I’m moving forward or backward, in the end I will always be right here. And right here is the only place I need to be.
Shedding the crackling layers of thought the busy hum inside that separates us from the splendid simplicity of the moment embracing boredom as a sacred rest Letting go of the desperate clinging the endless search for answers and meaning this life doesn't have to be anything besides exactly what it is as we breathe here now You're doing enough, you are enough whether or not you've made a masterpiece out of every second of your day sip in inner stillness with the stale air All tension comes from the stories we tell our insistence that we should be somewhere else when did it become so scary to nestle into silence to spend hours watching the rain come and go When did I begin to rely on the things outside myself to be a signal for if I'm doing okay, if I'm allowed to be happy hushing my internal guide to subscribe to other influences surrendering my deep knowing for doubt Even my sad days have their own worth it's the struggle to escape them that becomes suffering sitting with myself in the darkness is okay being a friend to this form instead of abandoning her I still don't know if unconditional love can be taught or if it's already there beneath all the noise but if this life is just spent searching and learning what a beautiful experience it will be regardless
My multitudes are mercurial the ever shifting sand of self spills through tightly clenched fists scattered by hot wind into oblivion Not fully embodied by either the single granular piece nor the expansive vastness of the dunes rather residing somewhere in between The jarring duel perspective of being the witness and the subject simultaneously surreal surveillance of mind and body fabricated force of strained separation Taking action is a distraction over-the-top over analyzing of reality obscures the resounding hum of here and now learning to let go and simply allow Releasing the tension of assumed control setting down the false shield of ego to finally reveal the safety we've been seeking was hiding behind the fear of full surrender
The last week has really shaken me up. I’ve been fortunate enough to have the ability to be able to easily fall asleep and stay asleep my entire life. There have only been a handful of times where this hasn’t been the case. This past week is one of those times. As soon as my brain comes back on line, the normal stillness and sense of ease has been replaced with racing thoughts that send me immediately into a state of panic. It feels too dangerous to fall back asleep. These fear addled thoughts demand my attention.
Somewhere in my half conscious state in the early hours of this morning, a realization struck me. Anxiety feels urgent. It feels like whatever the fear is focusing on is something that needs to be addressed ASAP. The sickening tension in all of my muscles, my short, quick, shallow breaths, these are all things that my mind tells me are a product of impending peril. I have to fix the thoughts to feel better. So I spend countless hours ruminating on unknown eventualities, trying to determine some perfect solution. Agonizing over my inability to do so. Will I feel like this forever?
In the middle of this cycle as I tossed and turned in my bed earlier, a had a glimpse of important insight. These thoughts are not directly causing these physical feelings. No, they are influencing my breath. My erratic breathing is causing these unbearable sensations in my body. I don’t need to fix the thoughts. They can stay exactly as they are, utterly unsolved and unsolvable. All I have to do is consciously come back to my breath. No matter what my mind is telling me, if I can slow down my breathing and extend my exhales, I’m going to feel better.
After just a few short moments of trying this out, I was asleep again, peaceful and safe. One of the most difficult aspects of anxiety for me is being able to convince myself that it’s okay to let it be there. Usually it compounds indefinitely as I try desperately to “fix” whatever it is that is causing my anxiety. But some fears can’t be fixed. Some nights I’m fixated on the fact that I and everyone I love will die one day. There is no mental contortion that I could create to make this okay. My brain begins to panic even more when I can’t come up with a way to eradicate the fear. The important thing is to remind myself that I don’t have to have answers for all of my anxious thoughts. In fact, trying to “fix it” just feeds them.
The breath is where my true power lies. It is the anchor tethering me to the present, the only moment worth living in. Even in the case where I genuinely would benefit from forming an action plan, I can only do that in the present. And I can only do that well from a calm frame of mind. If you’re someone that suffers from severe and chronic anxiety like me, comfort yourself with the knowledge that you don’t have to battle your fearful thoughts. Practice letting them be. Just come back to your breath. The proof that the thoughts themselves are not the problem will become evident when you realize by slowing down and deepening the breath you’ve returned to a calmer state.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe I could ever feel better when my fear seems so big and important. It feels like I can’t breathe because this heavy weight of my (sometimes legitimate) fear is pressing me into the dust. In reality, it’s the opposite. Or I suppose it’s rather a feedback loop. I’m afraid so my breath becomes shallow. My shallow breathing makes my sympathetic nervous system take over, and the cycle continues to intensify. The key is in realizing where my control truly lies. I can’t control my thoughts. I can’t control the external world with all its unknown variables and potential dangers. What I can control, if I choose to do so, is my breath. This is my power to break the cycle of distress.
If your thoughts try to tell you that you shouldn’t calm down because you NEED to be alarmed by these fears and address them, just gently remind yourself that if these fears are truly issues that need to be tended to, you can still do that from a state of calm. In fact, you will be better at coming up with a plan once you’ve settled your body and mind anyway. So just breathe. As long as you’re breathing everything is going to be okay.
The future is always uncertain fear cannot solve anything instead it keeps you small trembling in your lowest frequency A protective shield repelling all positive energy from entering there is no way to escape pain avoidance only amplifies it How many things have I agonized over that never even came to pass? I've aged myself tenfold expending energy on the ugliest ideas of things that would never happen The art of living is learning to be present no future safety and comfort will matter if we can't even enjoy the peace we have now so let your mind be still, just exist All we can do is savor the moment everything else is only theoretical there is no use struggling with demons that we may never meet along our path Build resiliency for whatever may arrive by cultivating a garden of delicious experience that will satiate you as the future floods in you are alive, you are safe, just breathe
Mindfulness is trusting that this moment is enough showing our appreciation for the gift of now Setting aside our doubts to delve deeper into the present seeing past the surface simplicity to be enveloped in sheer awe Each minute becomes magnified under the gaze of the focused mind purpose found in pondering a cloud's reflection in a puddle It's surprising what can fill your cup when you pay attention to the pouring of each moment into the next perfect stillness in motion
The warm, thick water at the edge of the river guides me along the texture of the rocky shore the soft rhythm of the waves against my bare legs and feet sand sticks to me as I reemerge through the trees along the road the humid air clings to my lungs in an oppressive cloud of heat storms slowly accumulating above the distant horizon ripe black raspberries beckon from the wild hillside bramble the heat is dissolved by cool droplets as I begin to collect my bounty enjoying my palmful of sweet fruit letting the rain soak my hair and paint dewy beads against my skin the swell of sweet music in my ears I laugh at the sheer delight of being alive overcome by gratitude for all my senses overwhelmed with love for this world savoring the childlike joy of simplicity each present moment can be populated with precious miracles like these may my mind remain still to witness my heart always open, ready to receive
the smallest dose of ancient medicine breaks down the walls I build around myself letting the world in once again a reminder of what is the tether of the present moment pulling me along through time the curiosity of the child inside waking to a wonderful world that's been here all along the sheer beauty of bird calls as I add my own joyous song the deep knowing of connection that binds me to all beings in this mysterious adventure of unlikely existence the realization that I am here a vessel to fill up with love and awe by witnessing the miracle of reality gratitude spills from my eyes in salty streams of sacred serenity thank you, thank you, thank you