“We should not let the projections of the past or the future break us down. They’re just ghosts. That’s why we train ourselves to always be in the present moment. That’s our practice. That’s our path.” Thich Nhat Hahn
A Soul is Born to Earth…to live for what matters. That is the basis of this whole blog.
So, what does matter?
I started really contemplating this at the end of last year as I was struggling mentally to keep up with an infant, a toddler, a house, a husband, my own basic needs, let alone my dreams. I was overwhelmed, sleep deprived, a little depressed, and anxious about how I would make it through this time in my life. How could I simplify? Where could I let go? So, here’s the “what matters most” list I came up with to focus my life, in order of importance: health, connection, learning, creating, enjoying.
In my view, health is number one. If our body and mind are not healthy, we have little room to focus on anything or anyone else. Illness and pain, both physical and mental, can be consuming. Just think back to the last time you had a major cold or flu. It knocked you down, right? You cared about little else aside from feeling better. Recently my little girl was sick and everything went on pause to attend to her needs. Her health was my first priority. But ultimately, if I wasn’t physically and mentally healthy I wouldn’t be able to take care of her. So really, my health is number one. I must take care of myself so I can give to those around me. There are millions of contradicting opinions on how to keep the body and mind healthy or how to heal from illness, heartache, emotional pain, etc. But that’s not where I want to go here.
What I really want to focus on is connection. It may actually be tied for first in what matters most, from my perspective. If we are not healthy it’s hard to connect in meaningful ways, but at the same time, genuine connection with others helps us heal and stay healthy on all levels.
There are an infinite number of ways we can connect with each other but I’d like to propose that the number one way to connect is through wholehearted presence – our time and full attention. Your presence is the most precious gift you can give to anyone. It’s the best way to say, “You are worthy. I see you, I hear you, and what you say or do matters to me.” You know how it feels when someone is giving you all of their awareness when you’re talking – it feels like you matter. And I’m sure you’ve also experienced when someone only half, or a third, listens to what you have to say. It’s tremendously frustrating and devaluing, right?
Going a layer deeper, how do we cultivate our awareness to stay present with someone? The greatest tool we have for staying fully in the moment is the breath. Even one, long deep breath can refocus our attention to the Now. It is the link between the mind and the body. As you slow the breath, you’re mind and body will respond with greater space, clarity and a calmer vibration. If you’re with someone and you notice the wheels of the mind spinning out to the past or future, pause, take a couple conscious deep breaths to settle the mind and come back into the body. Breath brings Presence brings Connection.
As I’ve explored many different spiritual practices in the past decade, mostly centering around forms of yoga and meditation, I’ve come to realize they are all pointing to the same thing – that presence is the only practice we really need for living this life fully and finding the truth we’re seeking. They each offer different techniques to get us there, but following the breath is the foundation of the practice in presence. The result is connecting with the moment, with those around us and seeing reality clearly. Put into practice for day-to-day living, this is how it translates for me: I stay at home with my kids, but how much am I actually with them? When I ask about my husband’s day, am I really listening? Can I put my phone down to look my son in the eye’s when he’s talking to me? When I’m driving, showering, washing dishes, doing all those automatic activities during the day, where is my mind? How often am I really connecting with my breath? How am I being in all these doings?
So, what’s on your list of the things that matter? Have you even thought about it? I’m guessing if you’ve read this far you probably have at least a vague idea of what’s important to you? The real question is, are you living it? Are you really creating space in your life for what matters most? Because as I like to say often, mostly to myself, these days are numbered my friends. This could be your last day, week, month, year. What are you doing that’s actually meaningful? How are you being in your doings?
I am by no means living perfectly and continuously in the present moment. And I may be the only person who ever needs to here these words on this blog, but at least in writing them, I’m thinking about what matters and focusing my mind energy in the direction of positive change in my life. And by that, changing the lives around me in positive ways. Isn’t that how all global change starts? In one person’s heart?
“When you know how to generate your own presence, you can make a gift of it to the one[s] you love…It is easy to do, it costs nothing, and it can be done very quickly. You do not have to practice for years to see the results. One minute will do.” Thich Nhat Hahn