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Where you are at

I am currently part of two programs meant to further my own personal relationship with myself. One of the prompts this month was around creating a self-portrait and sharing a reflection about it. As an amateur photographer, this was a welcome challenge. As I thought about what to photograph, I felt a strong desire to capture a moment. In reflecting on that, I see my yearning for such simplicity to be a reaction to my sense of being overscheduled and overly focused on productivity. I believe that North American culture does not want to live in the moment. There is constant pressure to reflect on the past and simultaneously plan for the future. Achievement is glorified, our technology distracts and numbs us, and there can be difficulty in settling into a grounded now. At the same time, more and more people are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. I don't think this is a coincidence.

There is another way. One in which we connect deeply with the world around us, stepping into the evolving dance of engaging with what is right here, right now. The past is gone; it cannot be changed. Spending too long ruminating about it can lead to a sense of being static. The future is not guaranteed; it is dependent on many factors, only some of which you have any control over. Thinking excessively about the future can lead to futile worry. The only moment we truly have is the one that is happening right now.

The above picture is an overlay; two moments captured quickly, without much thought and placed together to create a feeling. I didn't plan the pictures for overlay, instead playing with what was present. It wouldn't win photography awards, however, not everything has to achieve something. Being present in the moment also means accepting what is. We can become so focused on who we were or who we will be, that it can be hard to sit with who we are. Right now. In this moment.

I am reminded of a poem by Jane Hirshfield:

"The Tongue Says Loneliness

The tongue says loneliness, anger, grief,

but does not feel them.

As Monday cannot feel Tuesday

nor Thursday

reach back to Wednesday

as a mother reaches out for her found child.

As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.

Not a bell,

but the sound of the bell in the bell-shape,

lashing full strength with the first blow from inside the iron."

What could it mean to be the horse plunging through the gate? Could you welcome the you that is right now? What would it mean to become more present, to accept what is now and find peace within it? What would it mean if you accepted today for what it is, without needing to make it more or less?

I feel most alive when I am in a state of wonder; a state that requires being mindfully present. I feel it when I drink a particularly good cup of tea, when I see a flower in an unexpected place, when the sky is painted by the sun, or when I am delighted by a humorous comment. Each of these is an engagement with what is happening right now. When do you feel wonder? How could you cultivate it within your days?

Some mindful activities to help you be in the present:

  • Go for a walk. As you walk, notice what is around you. What do you see that you haven't noticed before? How does the light interact with the elements around you? What is moving? What is still?

  • Meditate. Start with the breath. Feel how it moves in your body, and see if you can stay with that sensation for a few moments. Allow yourself to sink into its gentle rhythm.

  • Dance. Put on a song you like and move in whatever way feels good to you. Don't plan the movements, simply let your body do what comes naturally even if that is simply gentle swaying.

  • Engage your senses. Listen for the sounds around you. Eat or drink mindfully, savouring the flavours. Feel what is touching your body and become curious about the sensations.

  • Cultivate curiousity. In one conversation today, let go of thinking about what was before or after; become curious about the other person's experience and drop fully and deeply into the conversation.

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