Living in the present moment as a way to deal with uncertainty. Everyday practices in the art of mindfulness.

For me, the year 2020, has been one long exercise in the art of living with presence, in the face of uncertainty and lack of control over external circumstances. Most of us are experiencing some very difficult challenges and whilst it is tempting, and understandable, to wish this year away, in doing so we also risk missing out on some of the daily goodness present in our lives.

It is our nature as human beings to want and need to have certainty and security in our lives, much of what we do and feel is aimed at creating this sense of solidity. This is however, at odds with the very nature of life itself, everything is in a constant state of flux and change. There is no solid ground, only an illusion of one which we have created.

The conflict and feeling of unease that this reality creates within us, has long been recognised by Buddhist teachings which suggest that we embrace and accept this world of constant change and live mindfully, to become present to the reality of each and every moment.

In the words of one of my favourite teachers Pema Chodron:

‘To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-mans-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh’.

This way of living, accepting the waves of change, is a daily, moment by moment, practice and by no means is it always easy or comfortable. It is a tool to help in the most difficult of times and with practice it can enrich our lives and bring joy and meaning to the smallest of moments.

Part of what drew me to Vanda Scaravelli’s approach to yoga is that she mirrors this advice – to simply land ‘anew’ each time we come to our mats, with no preconceived idea of what our body will do or show us in this present moment. She recognises that we are all in a constant state of change and we find the joy in this letting go of an expected outcome to receive the magic of what our body can be, what ‘is’, beyond the fixed ideas of our mind.

You don’t have to attend mindfulness classes to live with more presence. As we move into seemingly more and more uncertain times, you may wish to try some simple, short mindfulness practices in your daily life to bring you into presence as to what your life ‘is’ in each and every moment.

If you find your mind wandering into the future and worrying about what ‘might be’, try:

  • Changing your perspective: go outside and look up at the sky, take 3 deep breaths and notice everything you can see, taking in each image as if you were seeing it for the first time. Or take a good look at the ground, notice every small detail of the patch of mother earth on which you are standing.
  • Use your sense of smell: don’t forget our most primal of senses as a way to become present. Notice the smell of your garden, the logs in your wood store, the smell of your cup of tea as you pour it, the aroma of your food. I love the smell of my dog’s paws!
  • Notice your family: we tend to get into habits of communication within a family, try really listening to every word and the energy behind those words next time you talk to a loved one.
  • Come back to your breath: pause and notice every small part of the journey of your breath, the feeling of the air at the nostrils, the coolness as it journeys down your throat, the expansion of your lungs, where exactly in your body you feel the in breath expanding, notice the out breath and how it feels in your whole body as we ‘gift’ our breath back out.
  • Our place on this earth: simply notice your footprints, imagine you could see the print you leave on the earth and the body print you leave in the space you occupy.
  • A simple yoga practice: even if you don’t know what posture your body wishes to express, try lying on the floor, becoming still and noticing your body on the earth and then moving, in any way that feels good and appropriate for your body.
  • Listening to music: Take 5 minutes out of your day and sit and listen to one song. Try to pick out every lyric, each instrument, sense the emotion behind the song.
  • The feel on your skin: notice the feel of your favourite cushion, the weight and texture of your duvet as you fall asleep, the feel of your clothes as you get dressed or fold your washing, the feel of your hair as you brush it, your skin when you put your moisturiser on.

One of the biggest joys and source of comfort we have found this year in our household, has been watching the birds on our many bird feeders, standing and watching their every move for a good 10 minutes a day.

As the challenges of this year continue to unfold, I feel my humanness, my need to control life and have certainty and security – I am approaching it all as one big lesson from nature in the art of becoming present to each and every moment and accepting that which we cannot change. From one human to another, I wish you well on your journey to presence and hope that you can find, in amongst the difficulties, some comfort and joy in your small moments of life.

Namaste. Louisa