Before being introduced to or genuinely caring about what meditation and being present were, I used to think of these practices as cute bumper stickers or light pink Post-its that sounded pretty cool to say.
My idea was that being present meant, if you were physically somewhere or with someone, obviously you were present because you were there. Well, now I know that’s not quite it.
These past months, I have developed a practice, a small practice, but still a practice, of meditation in the mornings or even in the middle of the day, when my mind is going crazy-town per hour. I sit and breathe, and that is it.
I soak on other people’s words about experiences or feelings not necessarily being categorized as good or bad, simple or life-changing; I learn to simply be.
To be one with our breath, without holding on to it—just being with it.
I was asked by a friend recently: so, what is your dream?
I was silent for like five long seconds and then thinking about it, a doubtful “mmmmm” came out.
If you would have asked me this question a few years ago, oh my god! I would have jumped to tell you, or more likely to joyfully scream the answers to you (read this as if being rushed, no pause, and not enough air inhaled): “Travel the world; move to a different country; have a beautiful huge state of the art house; have a cabin in the alps, maybe for winter times; buy my brothers and sister each a house; mmmm…be happy, fabulous, married, so in love, and super fit like a ninja warrior woman.”
Wow! A pause is probably needed.
We live in a world where we feel we should always be after something, we should always want more, aim for the highest, for the best, for an abundance of all external things, for love from others.
It was a tough pill to swallow, but at some point in my adult life, I had to question: what if all this is untruthful? What if we’ve gotten it mostly wrong?
So, after this person asked what my dream was, I thought about it, and I said: “I want to be able to do what I love (writing) and to build my life around it. I want to do it in a way that is not just a selfish diary, but that can give me the life I want while being of some benefit.”
After this calm and peaceful response, my friend mentioned thinking of famous writers who are known worldwide and whose books have been made into movies. “Would you like to be a writer like that, that successful?” he asked.
I didn’t have to think much this time, and simply said: “No, not like that.”
“What?” he asked, “Why not?”
In my thoughts, two words came to mind: Right Livelihood.
“Well, I want to be able to write,” I said, “and for this to pay my bills in a way that everything is covered, and I can also have extra to help my family out.”
He didn’t seem so excited about my answer—maybe he guessed it was related to a lack of confidence, or to me being a person with no big dreams, who knows?
The following question from him was, “What else?”
I mentioned things about letting go of traumas, or clearly understanding where my bad decisions come from, so I could stop bad cycles from repeating themselves again and again. It felt like some needed fluff in the conversation. I never said I was perfect, nor do I intend to be.
After this happened, I realized:
I am not the same person that I was before, not better or worse—simply, I think differently.
I believe with all my heart in a life that is simple, full of love, purpose, and writing. A life where I can be at peace with who I am: the nice, the crazy, the sensitive, the funny, the childish, and the bad. A world that I contribute to.
I am starting to see a new perspective.
This perspective has come from sitting down on the floor, on top of a heart-shaped, small, turquoise pillow, with legs crossed, breathing in and out.
Visualizing thoughts like waves, as Shunryu Suzuki explains in his book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind:
“A strong mind is not bothered or disturbed by the waves. You simply let them come and go, notice them, and come back to your breathing, to that open swinging door of exhalations. We don’t want to get rid of the waves. They help our minds become stronger.”
When in doubt of how to sit down and connect with yourself, these simple thoughts might help you:
What matters to your heart is what matters.
Are you living how you truly wish you would? Do you love your job? If you are at peace with who you are and your life, that is so beautiful, and I am happy for you. If you are not—when are you giving yourself the chance? Tomorrow? When you find perfection? Or simply when it is too late?
Be kind to yourself.
Perfection isn’t real; you don’t need to master a hundred years of Buddhist meditation in 30 seconds. We have what it takes to create that friendship with ourselves we wish we had, that job that we can’t wait to wake up to go to, that smile from feeling how much we love and are loved back.
Don’t take meditation too seriously.
Don’t count the time; just sit down, with no expectations, and connect with your breath. Magic happens when we are willing to be silent.
Our goals change because we change.
We don’t need the word dream to start loving ourselves more. To be kinder, to choose mindfulness over what is easier or faster.
We don’t need to prove ourselves, but we must work for what we dream of. Sometimes my goal for the day is to eat a whole sprinkled donut, and on other days, I want to write a hundred books. It’s not about what we can accomplish. It is being honest about who we are at heart—this is freedom.
I look forward to being silent, to being bored, and to focusing on my breathing.
This place is after all where I have learned to be—with me. Not in the shopping malls, not at the end of bottles of wine, not even on that trip to Paris.
Inside boredom and silence is where I have learned to connect.
Learning to be present perhaps made my dreams and goals smaller, but it has made my heart fuller and more alive than it has ever been.