“The present moment is the substance with which the future is made. Therefore, the best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment. What else can you do?”-Thich Nhat Hanh
Children are laughing, there is a slight smell of a freshly sliced orange and the clouds are dancing in the periwinkle blue sky. I feel the grass on my bare feet. That is my conscious living today.
We live busy lives and there is a lot going on every day, but recently I find myself asking this question: how do we, including myself, handle stress, pressure, and tension in our day-by-day lives?
I live a busy life like many of us do. A working mom of two, there is always the long commutes on the busy freeways and the seemingly endless streets of Los Angeles. I would get home to feed the children while I ate a bowl of cereal at the sink, hungry, still in my work clothes. I operated like a butterfly with the hiccups; I would arrive at a destination and I could hardly remember the drive or what I was thinking about. I could not understand what was going on with me. I lived an unconscious life.
Habits can be broken. I committed to change my emotional and mental state and embrace a present life. I am now hearing the birds in a musical way and remembering exactly where I had noticed something special when I drive. Even though I have a constant battle of the brain each day, I commit to doing the inner work so that my inner light can radiate through to the outside.
The ability to embrace the present has been new to me. Living today, I look at my hands and notice where my feet are. They are planted on my foundation, in the present moment. I shift my thinking to gratitude and suddenly my perspective of my anxiety, fear and tension shifts. Instantly, I know I can pivot my thinking away from negative thoughts with a deep breath. When anxiety hits suddenly, I try to smell, taste and hear three things in the space around me.
Changing the way I think and actions with basic tools is my starting point. Taking time to smile at a stranger, allowing a car to change lanes ahead of me, taking the grocery cart back – better yet, taking someone else’s cart back. Anonymous acts of kindness thinking of others and not myself. I veer my thinking to my heart and not my mind. I find myself holding my hand over my heart before I speak. In that split second, I can pause to check my motives, which can change a challenging reaction to any outcome. Many cultures practice this; it was new to me, I had learned behaviors with our lifestyle.
I have also embraced a spiritual practice and a set of principles for living that gets me through the daily stress and tension. They are a set of spiritual principles that have become my moral compass to guide me to right living daily.
For example, I refer to my ingredients of humility as compassion and empathy. When I am really struggling, I surrender that my life or a circumstance is unmanageable, I ask for spiritual help (from my own Higher Power) knowing that unless I get out of the way and allow the matter run it’s a natural course, I directly create chaos, such as an actor running the show. I then check the wrongs I have done each day, make amends wherever possible, and always try to see my part. Practicing forgiveness makes my pillow soft at night.
I have found meditation is a way of life and a useful vehicle to get into the present. Silent meditation, music, guided breathing, or affirmations are the styles I use regularly. I substitute listening to the radio for meditation talks. I meditate to sleep and before I rush out of bed the next morning, I give myself five minutes to take deep breaths, I use simple mantras of self-love, with a timer on the meditation app instead of the snooze button on the clock. This gives a fresh start of positive intentions.
I learned the average human head weighs around 5kg or 11lbs. I sit at the computer, look down to cook, read, scroll through my cell phone; I feel it all in my neck, back, and shoulders. Sometimes I Imagine I am carrying a bowling ball as a head, weighing down my spine with my shoulders scrunched up towards my ears. A simple exercise I practice is taking my index finger and gently using the pushing back technique of my chin. My spine aligns and my shoulders relax while driving, walking, and sitting. This conscious action helps me get present and I feel my chin moved like it’s hunched over, to feeling alignment. It is a physical stress releaser for the body.
A change in bad habits leads to a change in life. Little tasks that used to seem so taxing and almost insurmountable every day became easier: I am preparing coffee or tea the night before, writing out what needs to be done for the week. When possible, I am meal prepping to eat mindfully. To avoid the stress of arriving five minutes late after hitting every red light possible, I welcome those red lights into my day and I leave five minutes earlier. Being on time is character building. People can count on me. My son’s former coach would say, early is on time, on time is late, and late is unacceptable. It’s a helpful reminder.
I start the day with: I’ve never been here, today. I like what is possible and I think I will stay here, where I am for the next 24 hours.
We all can be eagles, appreciate the daily gifts of life, and rise to a new way of conscience living.
Rachel Roe Mallon is a Sober mom, the advocate for Mental Health (daughter with schizoaffective) advocate for son, trained Family-Peer Support Specialist, volunteer teacher for NAMI Family2Family, and passion being a voice for the voiceless.