Have you ever stood in the shower and thought, "Have I washed my hair already?" Or arrived at work with no recollection of how you got there? This is us living on autopilot. And if we can do simple acts on autopilot, what else can we do so unconsciously? Have entire relationships on autopilot, live our entire lives?
If you really think about it the present moment is the only time that actually exists. The past doesn't exist and the future doesn't exist. All we have is RIGHT NOW. So, why are so few of us actually present in the moment? THIS is where it's all going on. NOW is where you are able to learn your lessons, find kindness and be Love. The teachings of Yoga are all completely based on being present and conscious and not spending your life on autopilot. From the most important part of the practice, the breath, to setting an intention to being consciously present in each pose. Yoga is all about this moment right now.
If you don’t know, I am a HUGE dog lover, in fact, I love dogs so much that I try to live my life from their inspiration for the very reason that they embody pure unconditional Love and only know how to live in the present moment. You will never see a dog worrying about money, or relationships, or mess something up because they weren’t paying attention. They are continuously in the present moment, ready to Love, play, connect and just be. Dogs are my greatest teachers. I sit in awe of their ability to accept themselves for who they are and accept the present moment for what it is. Even a miserable, unhealthy, abused dog will wag it’s tail when you show it kindness.
This type of pure consciousness is, unfortunately, something we, as humans, lose touch with as we grow older. Tiny humans who are brand new to the planet are also present moment beings. They cry when they’re hungry or need a nappy change, sleep when they’re tired and don’t think about what has just been or what is coming next. The more "adulty" we get, the less we connect with the present moment. The more “stuff” we have on our minds and in our lives, the less we have time to connect consciously with the present moment, with what is happening right now and, most importantly, with ourselves.
After my second teacher training, my home studio, Living Yoga in Johannesburg, offered me a mentorship under Cheryl Duncan and Sarah Bentz. My goodness, was that difficult. I was so caught up in wanting people to like me and being sweet that I wasn’t in the present moment. I would overthink everything I was saying, fumble over my words and mess up sequences because I was thinking about what my teachers were thinking of me, what the students were thinking, how could I be so stupid to think I can handle this...instead of just being in the present moment, appreciating that I was a good teacher. I knew what I was doing, I knew the teachings and the sequences. Thankfully (and painfully) my teachers lovingly called me out on this. They sat me down after the class and told me to stop worrying about other people, to stop trying to impress everyone and just be me. Be vulnerable, authentic and true. They told me you can’t be any of those things if you’re living in your head and you’re not conscious in this moment right now. They told me I needed to find my “Black Swan”, the little bit of realness to all my fluffiness. This lesson smashed me right in the face. I always prided myself on being nice and sweet and being friends with everyone and having everyone like me. So, learning that these characteristic were detracting from me being a good teacher was devastating. And being told this by the two humans I admired the most, nearly broke me. But that is what the mentorship was about, that is what being a student is about, that is what learning is about. Reassessing everything you thought was the truth and whittling it down to what it actually is. This need for everyone to like me was ego-driven. It had nothing to do with Yoga.
So, I took this lesson from my teachers very seriously and started to actively BE in the present moment. I started challenging myself, I started teaching myself, training to continually bring myself back to the present moment. I was practising every moment of every day. And this is why we call it a Yoga “practice” because it is a 24-hour-a-day effort learning the lessons to gain these super important tools. Once I dedicated myself to this practice, not only did I start to become the teacher I wanted to be but I was present in my life, in my conversations, in my relationships. I was ready, conscious and present to make decisions in my life and take my power back. When we live our lives unconsciously we give our power to whatever emotion or thought or event is going on. We become victims of our circumstances. But when we respond consciously, in the present moment, we are able to dictate our lives, learn the lessons put in front of us the first time around and make absolute magic in our lives.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the most important Yogic texts, starts off with the pronouncement of “Atha Yoga-anusasanum”, which translated means “NOW, this is Yoga, as I perceive it in my life.” That word NOW starts the entire discourse. It sets the teachings to the present moment. Not yesterday and not tomorrow, right now. We can use our Yoga practise to train ourselves to focus on the present moment, giving meaning to the mundane. We can find purpose in the things we do and thoughts we think, with a new-found ability to choose our experiences and live life with full and conscious mindfulness.
I offer you this simple practice to start learning how to bring yourself back to the present moment:
Take a moment right now, wherever you are to take a deep breath in and a long, slow breath out. Sit for a bit and just be in this moment, right now. What colours can you see? What sounds can you hear? Is there a certain taste in your mouth? Can you feel your clothes on your skin?
Then, bring all your awareness onto your breath. (Your breath is an amazing tool because it only exists in the present moment and is always with you.)
Just for a few moments, focus on your inhale and your exhale. Repeat to yourself as you inhale “IN” and as you exhale “OUT”. Breath in, breath out. In and out. Being in this moment brings peace, calm and connection.
I encourage you to take this amazing tool and use it in your life, whenever you may need it.
This moment right now is all we have, there is nowhere else to be. This is where all our lessons live. This is where we have the power to direct our lives and fall madly in love with ourselves.
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