Ah, summer. More daylight, warmer temperatures, weekends soaking up the sun and lounging by water of some kind or another…so relaxing isn’t it?
If you’re not laughing already, know that I am. I mean, if your summer’s been feeling like this, I’m happy for you. I really am. Really! For a lot of people I’ve been talking to, well, “things have been little crazy lately.” Not only are we ambitious folks trying to do as much as ever, but the projects and events of life seem a little extra chaotic this summer. They aren’t rolling quite as smoothly as hoped, or they’re becoming more complex the more time you spend with them. Everything is happening at once, and none as it was expected.
Is something in the air? The stars? Something like that, probably. I can’t say for sure because those aren’t my areas of expertise. What I can comment on, though, and what we talked about on Monday, is what’s going on inside of you. After all, even and especially when life decides to start throwing nothing but curveballs, the only thing you can even pretend to control is you.
Moments when it feels like you’re standing in the middle of a metaphorical tornado are huge tests for a mindfulness practice. There’s less time, it’s harder to focus, and you’re feeling too amped to relax, anyway. Funny, right? The more you need it, the less likely you are to do it. Life gets in the way, and there’s something more pressing to tend to. I know because I’m right there with you all the time. I wake up, and from that point forward, gently nudge my mindfulness practice to later and later in the day, until I find myself deciding that tomorrow will be fine. Then, of course, we all know what tomorrow looks like. Mindfulness becomes one more thing on an already overflowing to-do list.
In my experience, that feeling of “overwhelmia” that arises when we’re being pulled in too many directions at once is one of the most intense types of stress. When unpredictability gets layered on top of that, it can literally feel hard to breathe. When that happens, however, breathing is exactly what you need to do.
You don’t need to dedicate an hour to it. You don’t even need a whole five minutes. No meditation cushion, incense or perfect, spa-inspired music required. Just your attention, intention and breath. Stop, inhale, exhale, feel. Be where you are – literally, physically – for just a moment. Know that whatever may be racing through your mind, you are only in one place, doing only one thing, in this one present moment. Nothing else but this is actually happening.
There is a place of steadiness and calm that is always present within you. No matter how frantically you may run around the world – thinking, working, and even playing – it’s still there. When the swirl of life around you becomes too much to manage, you can tap into it. You can choose, even for just the space of one deep breath, to step out of the chaos and into yourself.
Lucky for you, you’re already doing it. Breathing, that is. All day, and all night. So, for just a moment, notice it. Let the other things vying for your attention just be, while you focus on that inhale, and exhale.
When your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath. That move in and of itself is the meditation. It’s not about emptying your mind, it’s about choosing what to do with it.
Leave the chaos for those late-day summer storms. As Pema Chodron said, “You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.”
Photo credit: Skitter Photo