I am present; I am fluid.
When I first began practicing yoga and was new to the idea of setting an intention, I never knew what to pick. My teacher would give us a few moments to drop into our practice and conjure up some magical thought that was supposed to guide us throughout 90 minutes of sweaty chaturangas and I didn’t really get the purpose of it. I would sit there at the start of class and really try to connect with an intention, but my hyperactive brain would second (and third and fourth) guess every intention I set. About 20 minutes into the practice, every single time without fail, I would be on my 7th intention and then finally get so frustrated with overthinking everything that I would just say: fuck it—my intention is to be present. Be present. It’s such a buzz-phrase in our world today. Just be present. I didn’t even really know what I meant, but for some reason, it was always the fall back plan during my early days of yoga and I’d just repeat it to myself because it was easy enough to remember and it was so obscure that it almost became meaningless and didn’t distract my brain with too many thoughts or God forbid, feelings. For a long time I thought it was a total cop-out of an intention, until I really understood the power of mantra.
I think in those early days I didn’t understand, or rather, didn’t embody presence. I said the words, assumed they were meaningless, but looking back on it, I think something stuck. Years into my practice it dawned on me that my biggest underlying issue was that I had no idea how to be present, so it was rather ironic that I chose “be present” as my mantra. In retrospect, I think that mantra actually chose me. Our thoughts shape our lives, and I was living completely in my head, paralyzed with anxiety about future events and scenarios that were totally made up in my mind. I was having visceral experiences based on shit I made up in my head—living out situations that might or could happen, but never actually did. So much energy was wasted on this fiction. Every “issue” I had was a manifestation of being ungrounded and unrooted in the present. The anxiety attacks I was experiencing, coupled with self medication and other forms of escapism prevented me from fully experiencing life at the present moment. We create our experience in this life by how we choose to react to and filter our thoughts.
Eventually I came to the realization that I was the captain of the ship of my mind and had the potential for control over the stress-inducing fluctuations. Note that I say “potential” because the first step for me was simply realizing that this was a thing. There was nothing epically wrong with my brain, and to blame my anxiety on a diagnostic term was, for me, an excuse. I knew I could get my shit under control, but I also knew it would take a ton of work. This has been an ongoing lesson I’ve learned time and time again under a variety of circumstances. I’ve learned the best thing to do is put my head down, walk into the fire, just do the damn work and not look up until it’s done. Having a clear intention and staying focused is by far the greatest skill I have learned throughout this process of undoing and relearning how to live presently. Like any other skill, it’s efficacy depends on how often it’s practiced, therefore each time I step foot onto my mat, my intention is still to this day, “be present”.
The funny thing about presence is that once you get on track, once you set your intention, and do the work to stay focused, everything fucking changes. After all that focused and driven energy, life seems to know the perfect time in which to smack you across the face and be like, “just kidding!” and seemingly uproot and change your course without warning. So, to truly be present is to be fluid. To really be committed to living in the moment is to not only accept that change occurs constantly but to also manifest that change. Like the wave of an ocean we are always rising, peaking, crashing, and returning to ourselves, inevitably to rise again and restart the process. Once we accept that it is all good, there’s no judgment or value to be placed on each part of the process, we can find freedom, confidence, and most importantly, hope. Whatever stage of the proverbial wave you are in, know that it’s not permanent…and to stay rooted in the present moment is to truly feel what it means to be alive.
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