In the last few years, the desire to remain still is what I crave. It is a real struggle. A few evenings ago, I attempted to spend an entire hour stretching my limbs in a class setting. Extending my hands above my head while my legs reached to some point I couldn’t really see, but felt. As my limbs pulled in varying directions, the pain of the stretch surged up my leg and the sensation of discomfort stirred inside. The only option in these moments were to sink into the pain. There wasn’t a way to distract myself. I couldn’t reach for my cell phone to make a phone call, reply to a text, or check e-mail. I looked at the wall and glared at the second-hand on the clock, but the pain didn’t evaporate. My mind wandered around every corner of the room, looking and stopping and then realizing the whole purpose of this stretch was this: To be present in the pain. And to with every minute inch forward, to cultivate patience. There is an innate faith in this principle: being present and patient.
I want to hurry the process. Repeating the words “Be present” doesn’t mean it will automatically happen. That is a start, but the crux of being present is, yes, an up and down, side-to-side, tumultuous process. For me, there is so much random stuff that lurks in my head every minute of the day. Every minute. The phone call that needs to be made, the bill that must be dropped in the mail, the text that demands a reply, the dishes, the laundry, the writing, the caring and feeding of my family. There are countless other lingering thoughts that betray the present. You get the point. How can I be present if I not willing to give myself the patience to work toward this goal? Being present is painful. You can’t linger on the past. You have to let go of it. And you can’t distract yourself with concentrating on the future. Because then you become an unreliable narrator of the life you are trying to embrace in the current moment.
I am learning. There are moments when I fully experience the present. Glimpses where I feel the meeting of mind, body and spirit in an undeniable whole. They often revolve in activities that center around motion and stillness. Reading a book, hearing the raucous laughter when I tickle my daughter’s stomach, looking out the window, running while the sun rises, and lingering in the stretch. I’ve reversed my mantra on stillness: Being patient with myself to fully embrace the present.