Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Mindful Step

This step, the one right now, is the only one that matters.

Taking a step on the beachIt’s easy to feel overwhelmed by to-do lists and the busyness of everyday life. It’s easy to feel intimidated by our dreams and aspirations. It’s easy to forget that all the stress, all the worry, and all our fears, are just mental chatter. We so easily identify with the stories we play in our minds, soon believing that we are being asked to take an impossible leap, far beyond our potential.

The truth is, we aren't. All we need to do is come back to this step, the present moment, and what it holds. We may need to face the stress, the worry, and the fears straight on, but eventually they dissolve in the light of our awareness.

Sure, this all sounds wonderful, but what does it really mean? What do I have to do? Is it really possible for a “regular” person like me? I asked many of these questions myself, and this is what I’ve learned.

When we allow ourselves time for stillness in meditation every day, a gradual, but steady process of un-layering takes place. We all come to stillness practices for different reasons, but often find the results are far beyond what we initially sought. The key, of course, is consistent practice. Mindfulness is a skill that we cultivate through practice, and just as any skill, it takes time and dedication to become proficient.

As we sit in meditation, we learn to see things just as they are, learning to let go of our judgments about the way things should be. As we become objective observers of our experience, we start to notice what the nature of the mind is really like, and how our thoughts, emotions, habits, and ultimately our underlying beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, affect our health and wellness on an everyday basis. There are no rules for how you must live your life to be happy. Rather, through the process of cultivating self-awareness, what is right for each of us tends to reveal itself organically. We have the choice of how to respond. The choice is always ours, and through mindfulness practice, we learn exactly how many choices we have available to us that might lead to happier, healthier lives. In truth, it is a choice we make in every moment. This moment.

Indeed, the biggest choice of all is the one that embraces the present moment. We cannot be stressed, worried, or fearful if we are truly immersed in the present moment, but it takes practice and a gradual process of revealing for us to both strengthen our mindfulness muscle (our ability to stay focused in the here and now), and understand the value of the present moment. We must go beyond an intellectual understanding of present-moment awareness and experience for ourselves what the present moment offers us. Until then, it remains a mystery which sounds good but doesn’t provide any real opportunity for change.

Monk walking on path of rose petalsEven this process can sound intimidating. It might feel beyond our reach. We might be fearful of the possibility of change, or what that change might require of us. Again, even in this place, we can find relief in the present moment. Worries and fears only exist based in an imagined future. All that really exists is this moment. Therefore, all that matters is this step. The step we are taking right now. Its okay if you are as wobbly on your feet as a baby taking its first step. This is why we call the cautious process of moving forward “taking one baby step at a time”! Even a monk walking on a path of rose petals once began with that first wobbly baby step.

May you open to the present moment and all it offers. May you embrace this step, and may it be everything you require, bringing you the opportunity for growth and healing which inevitably will prepare you for this moment. And this one.