A practice I find myself constantly refining is a return to the present moment. The more I learn about this world and people, the more I believe that the secret to happiness is moving our consciousness away from the constant chatter of the mind and into the here and now.
I know I’m not revolutionary for thinking so. All of my inspirations essentially say the same. Whether it’s Patanjali saying “yoga chitta vritti nirodha,” yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind, or it’s Ram Das reminding us to “Be Here Now,” this simple teaching is oft repeated by teachers throughout the ages.
This is a good an helpful thing. Because of the fluctuations of the monkey mind and the strong distraction from the present moment, we often need to hear something said multiple times in different ways before it sinks in and we can integrate it as truth.
I had this realization in the middle of a yoga class when a teacher was offering a refinement cue for Warrior Two. As I worked to ground my back heal into the earth and inner spiral my back thigh, it suddenly hit me that *this* is what my other yoga teachers had been trying to correct. It just took a different combination of sound bites and a mind unclouded by what to buy for dinner for the wisdom to sink past the thought bubble and into my body.
It’s no accident that I consistently return to the practice of yoga. Revelations like this on the mat reflect right back to life experiences. As my muscle memory incorporated the more aligned form of Virabhadrasana II, my thought body recalled other moments when I wasn’t able to see truth because of my perception being clouded by the chitter chatter of the monkey mind. Reflecting on my newfound wisdom after class, I felt gratitude for the myriad ways that Spirit presents us with opportunities to learn.
I love that this advice is so often repeated to us by different teachers throughout time! This speaks to the condition being fully integrated with our One Human Spirit. Every person who’s walked this earth has had to grapple with mindless chatter de la mente. It may seem crazy, but I draw comfort knowing that this is something bound up with being human rather than a modern problem. Knowing that Shakespeare, Einstein, and Jesus all had to overcome this mind warp gives me comfort that it’s more than possible in this lifetime.
I try to share this knowledge with my students as we gather to practice yoga or meditation. So often, I hear others complain about the torture this barrage of thoughts creates in every day life. People speak of not being able to turn off their minds, and feeling as if they have no control over the deluge of chatter, and I am grateful that I have a tool to share with them.
I’ve always disliked evangelism in any form it takes, so I’m not going to tell you that yoga is the only way to achieve this inner peace, but as a yoga teacher, I can share what has worked for me. That is using the breath as a bridge from the mundane to the infinite. I’ve found that a fascination with the energy the breath brings to the body and a committed study of the breath in each moment draws one away from the drama of the mind and into the present.
When you are able to enter the present, it all becomes okay. You realize that the mind is like a soap opera writer, always creating bizarre scenarios for who might do or say what or imagining all of your worries happening in the same moment. As you follow the breath into the body, you encounter this pure beam of inner stillness and truth where your true spirit resides. In this space, the drama of the story falls away and you realize that in this moment, you have all you need. In this moment, your needs become simpler. Fresh air, pure water, and a safe space are enough. Surrounded by like-minded, understanding people as well? Lucky for that! Find yourself being challenged by a personality in your present moment? Use that as an opportunity to look within for where those thoughts and behavior manifest in your own life.
Another wisdom shared by holy people through the ages is that each moment provides us an opportunity for awakening. We just have to be present for it!
So for today, I encourage you to drop into your practice. If your practice is yoga, bring a focus more on your breath than the asanas that you’re moving through. If your practice is meditation, begin your meditation with pranayama. As you move throughout your day, take small moments of awareness to follow your breath deeply within your body until you find that pulsing, glowing core of inner truth.