“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
My travel date is fast approaching.
For some reason, I begin to worry and fret. I start postponing everything I’m doing or need to do, till I return. It’s as if the world stops because I’m traveling in a few weeks.
The funny thing is that I don’t have a fear of flying. Traveling to Paris for a writing course will be exciting, fun and rejuvenating. It’s more like a journey of self-discovery than a holiday, and it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’ll be alone for a month without family, friends or the worries of work.
What is it that gets me so anxious and worried about my impending travel date? Is it my deep-rooted fear of getting out of my comfort zone? Or perhaps my fear of uncertainty, which allows my mind to wander about the future and picture different disastrous scenarios?
It’s probably both that drive my “monkey” mind into overdrive and let my thoughts begin to judge my previous actions and reactions or project forward, analyzing what kind of mishaps and problems await me.
The identification with our thoughts is a tiring process, and the more we complicate our lives and busy our minds, the more restless we become. To make matters worse, when we become aware of our thinking and over-analyzing, it makes it even more exhausting.
We need to remind ourselves that we are not our thoughts—which can often appear from thin air and disappear almost as quickly. The best way to stop going back to the past or projecting to the future is by focusing on the present— by practicing mindfulness.
This is when we zero in on the present thing that we are doing, such as watching a sunset, playing with our children or writing poetry—and we open ourselves completely, and every minute becomes joyful and soul nourishing. Time just stops and nothing else matters. There is stillness, and a certain form of inner peace engulfs us. We stop talking to the outside world, and more importantly, we stop listening to our incessant inner voice.
Thich Nhat Hanh says: “Mindfulness begins with an awareness of the simplest action: breathing in, knowing that you are breathing in; breathing out, know that you are breathing out.”
These are the things I do that have helped me become more in the now:
I’m no Meditation expert, but my practice has helped make me more peaceful, less stressful and much more mindful. I use a breath technique, which is not too complicated. I sit still for 20 minutes first thing in the morning.
Completing my practice every day is a discipline that sets my day on the right track and becomes the support for the rest of my conscious, mindful acts during the day.
2) Mindful Moments
I’ve consciously set out to have more presence in my day-to-day life. This not only makes me feel good immediately but also has a compounding effect on the way my mind learns not to jump from one thought to another.
For example: I set my alarm for three different times during the day, when I stop whatever I’m doing and take 10 deep conscious breaths.
Whenever I see the birds flying above, I stop and take a few moments watching them fly, in absolute awe.
If I’m lucky enough to be in a city with a lovely sunset, I make sure I witness its splendor.
Every time I drink an espresso (three to four times a day), I don’t do anything or think of anything. I just let the aroma of coffee enter my being as I sip slowly.
3) Doing One Task at a Time
“Just focus on the next hour, the next thing, the next task. Do it will all your heart and do it until the end.”
This little trick has been advocated since time immemorial from Benjamin Franklin to Warren Buffet. It simply means don’t multitask, and start by doing the most difficult task first and only when finished with the first task, then move to the next one. I do this till I finish all my designated tasks for the day and I try to keep my tasks as few as possible.
4) Reading Fiction or Poetry
“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates
I love reading fiction, especially the epic novels like Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I also love the works of Tolstoy, Murakami and Hemingway. No matter how stressed I am in my life, it all just slips away when I lose myself in a great story where I’m transported to other realms I never knew existed.
Reading poetry by Rumi or Gibra, especially at night before I sleep—or any of the sacred texts, like the Bhagavad Gita—allows me to connect deep into my being, compelling me towards my inner hidden truths. This puts me in such peace that I wake up with my mind completely serene.
5) Schedule Emails, Internet use and Social Media
Getting notifications for email, instant messages and social media on our phones is not the ideal way to calm our swaying thoughts. They add fuel to the fire and keep us hooked into the never-ending information loop which gets us addicted to our technology, making us anxious and edgy.
We need to be disciplined and smart in how we control technology, rather than allowing it to control us. It’s not easy, but the best way I’ve found to take control is by scheduling my use. I check emails, social media and use the Internet only twice a day: late in the morning and late in the afternoon, for a limited time of 30-45 minutes.
Our state of being is intimately connected with our minds. We can’t stop the triggering of unhappy memories, self-critical thoughts and judgmental ways of thinking, but we can stop what happens next.
The more we put ourselves in that present moment, the better chance we have of calming our minds and relieving the anxiety and worry that surrounds us.
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves—slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Author: Mo Issa
Image: elephant archives
Editors: Travis May; Yoli Ramazzina