We have a proposition. This year, instead of making resolutions, let’s make intentions. Manifestations. Let’s focus on graceful, detached actions that make us feel good, not subpar. Let’s make it an energy thing, not a ‘did you hit the mark’ thing. A ‘did you lose the weight’ thing. A ‘did you make the money’ thing’. Your value can not be placed somewhere on the scale of ‘winning’ and ‘losing,’ you exist somewhere beyond it — or in the middle of it — but it’s exquisitely unique and simply, utterly you. Now, doesn’t that feel much better?
What you just did, right there, was experience the present moment. Reading those sentences, it did not matter what happened yesterday, or what may happen tomorrow. You were in a place where regret and anxiety couldn’t touch you. Now, admit it: it was nice.
That’s the true power of presence. The present moment lies at the core of wellness. We can almost promise you that the secret to happiness lies there, too. There’s no plan as foolproof as this! Being able to access the present moment is something akin to magic — it steadies your heart rate and calms your mind, effectively bridging the mind-body gap that grows and grows and grows when we move too fast, or when we simply stagnate. Humans are not meant to operate at such extremes, and there are so many benefits to balancing somewhere in the middle; in the present.
That’s why we’ve declared ‘presence’ as our New Year manifestation — or did we settle on intention? Either way, let’s explore several ways to harness this secret and make it so that by the next year, we’ll be [vibrationally] unrecognizable and infinitely more content.
Yoga and Meditation
“When you just sit in silence the wind blows through you, the sun shines in you, and you realize you are not your body; you are everything.” -Anita Krizzan
Experienced yogis will not be surprised to hear this one; but if you are new to yoga or haven’t yet felt the desire to dive into the ocean of meditation, this might be interesting idea to conceive! At the surface, what looks like simply sitting (meditation) or stretching (yoga asana) is a somewhat humanistic(?) internal process that binds body to mind, and mind to body. Think this isn’t a big deal? We want you to imagine how often your breath controls your mood, and vice versa. When you’re angry, do you not breath faster and shallower? When you’re frightened, does your entire body not seize up? Now, imagine if you could control these reactions and not be a needless victim of the parts of life we can’t change.
That’s what yoga teaches us. When we put our bodies into different shapes, as complex or straightforward as they may be, many different thoughts come to mind. An untrained mind might immediately jump to a thought that will distract oneself from the discomfort — it’s much easier to think about our boss annoyed us this morning than to confront the reality that our fingers can’t reach our feet — and it’s not wrong of us to do so. In fact, that’s the whole point! We put ourselves in situations that challenge our ability to be fully present and then gently encourage our minds to do the difficult work. If you’re in downward facing dog, you’ll get a nice stretch in your hamstrings, for sure… but if you let your monkey mind wander free (what Buddhists call restless thoughts), then you’re missing a majority of yoga’s magic. If your hip is tight, don’t belabor your body for what it (one day) might be; instead, accept your body for where it is at and send it unconditional love. Holding a yoga pose is no small feat, and very little of that work is actually done by our muscles, fascia and tendons!
This is also meditation’s goal, stripped of yoga’s physical movements. In many ways, this can more difficult for people. There are countless aspects of yoga that give you a reason to focus inwards, from alignment, dristi, bandhas, energetic cycles as well as the euphoric experience of gently expanding your body’s limits. With meditation, it’s just you and your mind. With no music or instruction from a teacher, how is it possible to control where your thoughts go and what your mind thinks about? The answer is as simple as inhaling and exhaling. When you’ve realized that your mind has wandered, without guilt or judgement, simply encourage it back to the breath — as you would with an innocent child who became distracted by a butterfly. With your inhale, you take everything around you into your body, and when you exhale, you surrender a little bit of yourself to the universe. At the same time you withdraw your sense and give into the beauty of everything around you — you’re no longer a person in the room, but the room itself and all the air, space matter and energy that makes it real. This is oneness with reality, in the present. You are nothing, yet at the same time you are everything, and in that you can find a true sense of comfort and belonging. All this magic happens simply because you are breathing. Because you are alive.
The breath is everything, here. The breath transcends almost everything — worries, regret, even time itself. We live in a vastly future-oriented society, where everything is goal and set against a timeline, but that’s a breeding ground for dissatisfaction and yearning. The present moment isn’t good and it isn’t bad, it just is. When a 1 hour yoga class feels like 15 minutes, you know what I mean. It’s a chance for your body and breath to lead your mind, instead of the other way around. When that happens, you feel it. That contentment you feel at the end of yoga class? You freaking earned that.
Surf and the Ocean
“Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.” -Ma Jaya Sati
The ocean is the elixir of life. It covers more of the earth than dry land itself. The waters conceal mountains taller than Everest and trenches deeper than the Grand Canyon. Hidden within the world’s oceans are life-forms of almost infinite variety, in shapes and colors that even our most creative imaginations couldn’t fathom. In fact, humanity knows so little about the sea that it continues to be steeped in mystery and wonder despite our species’ greatest efforts. In a plane of existence where we have walked on the moon and explored the reaches of the galaxy, the ocean persists as one of the universe’s greatest kept secrets, and it exists right in our backyard. How lucky are we?
We know nothing about the ocean, yet we do know that our very existence depends on it. It feeds us, gifts us with oxygen to breath and controls the earth’s climate. The ocean’s waters can help to heal wounds and soothe ragged souls. The ocean connects the moon to earth, as tides are evidence of this powerful movement of energy, and similarly it also stirs energy within us. The ocean’s affects are different to each person: some people feel centered and content, while others feel inspired and gregarious — emboldened by a close proximity to the ceaseless crashing of waves. Immersed in the rhythm of the ocean, one can find themselves closer than ever to their truest self, whatever that may be.
If being near the ocean can inspire profound insight, then imagine what riding it can do. Surfing, put simply, is an activity filled with joy. It builds a connection with the sea that few others can because, to surf well, you must find and maintain a direct focus on nature itself. Looking at the ocean is only half the battle — you’ve got to feel it. You’ve got to let the sea into your very core and let it move your limbs for you. Steep yourself in the ocean’s ancient wisdom and see how it guides you across walls of water and through barreling waves, with a neat and effortless ease. Energy from the wave must travel from the ocean’s hand, through the board and into yourself — then, you are the wave. You are surfing. The true act of surfing might only be a few seconds out of any session, so we cannot discredit surfings team players: paddling and maneuvering your board, as well as sitting on your surfboard in the lineup for a wave, are huge parts of this art each have their own lessons to teach us. Wondering what those lessons are? They’re unique and perfect for every different person, so jump on a board and see what secrets mother earth whispers in your ear.
When you learn to ride the waves of the ocean, you also learn to ride the waves of life — but it’s not all about the successes, as addictive as those may be. Falling is a fact of our human existence. Falling is scary at first, as many things are, but we cannot let that trepidation stymie us. If we fall off of our board, we fall into the water — we learn that the universe always has a cushion for us, and to trust that it’s there even if we don’t see it. If we fall off our path in our lives, or in our careers or relationship, it’s usually because we’re busy falling into something even better. The ocean is also a great equalizer; it washes away everything that is unessential and leaves us stripped bare. In the face of such greatness, who are we? We are simply passengers in this world, and supremely lucky to be here. In this way, the ocean is able to show us our ego and then gives us a way to neutralize it. We are present, we are one.
Travel and Remote Experiences
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” -Marcus Aurelius
If anything is clear at this point, then it is that we must train our minds to live in the present moment. It doesn’t just happen naturally, although that’s what our society might have us believe. Our human nature is hell-bent on survival, but in a world where our survival isn’t at sake, these safety measures can go a bit kooky. We have to become friends with ourselves and tame our monkey minds with love — then, we find the present moment — and only once we’ve found the present, can we then test ourselves and strengthen our ability to simply be as we are.
Travel isn’t all gilded museums and delectable dining, although a large part of it is. For some, travel is a treat and for others, travel is a way of life — but the concept of it appeals to these very different people for the very same reason. If yoga challenges us to connect to ourselves, and surfing challenges us to connect to nature, then travel challenges us to connect to other people. We have to turn outwards, by turning inwards. If that sounds impossible, it really isn’t.
We all know the feeling of being comfortable. It’s nice to know what is going to happen every hour of every day, and not because you can tell the future — it’s because you designed it that way, down to the very minute, even with your smallest and (seemingly inconsequential) choices. You know how much money to expect in your direct deposit at 11:59 pm on Thursday, biweekly. You know which faces you’ll see in the office, and the various 15-minute intervals at which they all arrive in the morning. Hearing the same language spoken in the grocery store is very securing too, might we add. There’s my bank, my daily commute, my coffee cup. The idea of travel turns the ideas of “mine” on its head. Outside of your comfort zone, nothing is yours and nothing ever goes according to plan, and you never really become more aware of your small place in the world than when you travel and see that every single person — yes, every single person from the smallest baby, to the beggar on the street corner, to guy brewing your coffee — has a life equally as complex and vivid and interesting as your own.
Getting away from your daily routine through travel can be one of the most cleansing experiences that money can buy. It wipes your ego clean and at the same time, alleviates you from worrying about the past or the future because if you focus elsewhere, the present moment is gone. With that moment, imagine how many infinite, colorful, cultural experiences you’ve missed! Think of the people you might have met, or the smiles you could have exchanged. Travel is so much more than a mad dash from meal to meal, or wi-fi hotspot to wi-fi hotspot. It’s a chance to put yourself in uncomfortable situations not because you’re a glutton for punishment, but because you the beauty in all things — the small things, and the present moment, included.