Sitting with what is
This past weekend we went camping in the Adirondacks. We took our first long hike with our four month old child. As we hiked and hiked and hiked I couldn't help but notice a deep angst growing inside of me created by the wanting to know how much longer there was until the peak. This happens to me everytime I hike. I anticipate the event, and once on the trail I find myself thinking about how long until the end of the hike, whether it will it feel shorter on the way down. This is a trend in my life, so as I hiked this time I used the opportunity to reflect on all the times in my life where instead of being present in the now, I got stuck in the anxiety of wanting to know what would come next.
Pregnancy and motherhood have been great teachers because of this. I spent 9 months driving my midwives crazy because I wanted to know what was next, I took two trips to the birth center because I wanted the baby to come out. Birth taught me a thing or two about planning and wanting to know what is next. Then the baby arrived, the guessing of what he would look like was over, the angst was finally calmed. Until of course he hit one month and the angst came back...when will he recognize, when will he make a noise for the first time, when will he smile, when will he roll...the list is endless.
I tell this story to portray how our minds are so prone to being propelled into the future, into wanting to know what is next as a means to escape what is here now. The excitement or anxiety that comes with it gives purpose, the chaos that comes with it seems to take up all the mental and emotional space therefore tampering the energy we could devote to doing deep inner growth. The mind will do anything to escape what is here now. Even though sometimes we do need something to look forward to in the future, and it may work as a temporary relief if the present is heavy and still, but in the long run it will only continue to reinforce the inability to be with what is, without really relieving any future or present suffering. Looking forward to what is to come only makes the present more unbearable, and when that future moment comes we are not available to be here for it because by default we are already looking to the next thing.
So what if instead we paused and took some time to practice being content with what is here now? I am aware that I have it easy and there is a lot of tragedy and loss out there right now and always, but this does not take away the immeasurable gift that the sages of Yoga have given us with the teachings on learning to stay present. When we can be present with what is, and allow our emotions and feelings to arise without changing them or labeling them, just letting them be what they are, while staying tethered to the present moment, it will be easier to find some contentment in the now.
As I find myself watching my baby today instead of wishing for the next developmental leap to happen under my eyes, I choose to look at his process, observe it and learn from it, because it will never be again, just like so many moments in our lives. I invite you to do the same today. What can you embrace? What can you allow yourself to be in the process of? What can you take in as it is, without wishing it was different?