“For today: Slow down and breathe. Feel your heart beating. Make it simpler. Even simpler than that. Inhabit the space you are in. If it feels too constrictive let go of things. Clear it out. Give away and offer up the things that clutter your space. You are too precious and life is too short. ” -Christy Naida Linson
I had the good fortune to go to Costa Rica on a wonderful yoga retreat recently. It was actually a present to myself for my upcoming 60th birthday, which is in a few months. The person who led the retreat was my friend and teacher, and the person whose words you just read in the quote above. What a treat it was! As was being in the company of 20 other beautiful souls. Even the staff at Pranamar Villas and Yoga Retreat were unforgettable. They were like one big happy family and ever so gracious!
Each day either before or after class, we were given a word, a thought or a question to meditate on and journal about. Upon our arrival, and after a long travel day for most, it was the word “allow” then “arrive.” These are two mighty powerful words that can alter our presence, perspective and our practice. As does the phrase, “I have arrived,” which Thich Nhat Hanh is known for speaking about. As a matter of fact, he has a verse that he suggests is wonderful to practice during walking meditation. It’s the first thing that came to mind when Christy lovingly encouraged us to allow ourselves to arrive:
- I have arrived. I am home.
- In the here, in the now.
- I am solid. I am free.
- In the ultimate I dwell.
We were encouraged to “allow” our thoughts to arise without judging them as right or wrong (which most of us have been programmed to do at some point in our lives). As Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book, Happiness, “When we focus on arriving, we arrive at the destination of life. The present moment is a destination….I have arrived means I have stopped running. I have arrived in the present moment because only the present moment contains life.”
The act of arriving is the simplest meditation we can do. It is one that will immediately place us in the present moment….the here and now. You may be thinking otherwise but, with time and practice, we can train ourselves to be the observer and simply witness the thoughts in our heads without engaging or giving life to them. There’s a simple beauty in being able to do so. It also pays to be a keen observer of the obstacles that keep us from being present (which was one of the questions we are asked to reflect on as well).
For me, “arriving” is landing in my body and feeling a deep sense of rooting, connection and grounding. Being so totally in the here and now that I soak in the surroundings, sights, sounds and smells- with each breath, and wherever I am…..at home, the beach, the yoga studio, cleaning or even washing dishes or some other mundane task. It’s giving my attention to how my body is feeling from the subtle sensations to whatever thoughts arise. I try not to get caught up in the thoughts, especially if they do not serve my highest good. Rather, I let them float away as if they were in beautiful white clouds. Staying true to my practice, and my nonnegotiables, is all part of my radical self-care maintenance plan, and it is what allows me to feel like I have arrived.
An obstacle that can sometimes keep me from being present, or feeling like I’ve arrived, is when I have a packed day. Honestly speaking though, part of my self-care regimen is making sure that doesn’t happen. Hence, the discernment I employ (or should I say radial discernment) as to how, when, where, why and with whom I expend my energy on. However, there are those days that are beyond our control. The days that “duty calls.”
On those kind of days, I find myself making sure I do a special morning meditation and set my intention(s) for the day. Also, I make sure to stay hydrated and either pack or purchase wholesome foods and snacks that will fuel me. Music is everything to me, so I make sure to listen to music that will keep me calm, peaceful and serene. No hard rock, hip hop, salsa or merengue…..wink, wink! It’s all about setting the tone and priming my Self for the type of day that awaits me. Preparing oneself for a trying and/or long day can be a meditation in itself. Try it and see!
How else can we practice the simplest of meditations? Well, I personally love watching the waves roll in. Just like our thoughts, waves come crashing in and then seamlessly flow back out. Watching the sunrise or sunset is also magical and so serene. These are wonderful times of the day to express gratitude for another day of having the privilege of being alive. A slow walk in the park or somewhere outdoors provides us with a lovely opportunity to use the “I have arrived phrase.”
One place I make sure I’ve arrived is in the car. Personally though, I do NOT like listening to any sort of meditation-like talk in the car because it really distracts the brain from the primary task of driving. Zoning out is NOT an option behind the wheel! Being present while driving is a task in itself.
Over the course of the last several months, I have found that one of my favorite things to do is to lay on the floor in a supportive, heart-opening pose and just feel my heart beat. Post- Costa Rica, I find myself doing this a whole lot more as I listen to Steve Gold’s song, So Much Magnificence. For some reason, this song has become my anthem for “allowing and arriving,” as well as letting go of any remains of the day that may be weighing me down. I think it’s because I would listen to it in the afternoons before class, and it was one of the last songs we listened to while in a delicious restorative pose on our last night of practice. Perhaps it’s a subtle way of keeping those memories and feelings alive!?!?
Just about anything we do can be a simple meditation. The idea is to be engaged fully in whatever it is we are doing, and do just that one thing. The practice simply calls for us to tune into our breath. When we make this a daily practice, we catch ourselves during those times in which we are holding our breath – our life force. Believe me, it happens more than we think, and that’s so not good! Regardless of where we are, whom we are with or what is going on in our lives, we can safely land and arrive in our bodies….one breath at a time.
Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC