Sunday, August 7, 2011

what I learned about presence

Often, when I'm working on these different months, I don't know what the month is really about until it's almost over. And that was true with July. I started out thinking it was about sensuality, and about living in and enjoying my senses. But I realized that spending time focusing on my senses was really bringing me into the present moment. When I was chewing on that fig and goat cheese combo, I couldn't be thinking about how I was going to finish writing my class on time. When I was feeling the wind in my hair, I wasn't obsessing over when I was going to get my laundry done. And when I was hearing my nephew laugh, I was only thinking about how I could get him to do that some more. (Answer? Peek-a-boo. That kid's an addict.)

Living in the present moment when you're a really thinky person like I am, is a challenge. For years I have told myself this story about how my mind and my intellect make me funny and awesome. So I don't tamp down my brain because, according to the story, doing so would make me less funny and less awesome. I've resisted meditation. I've struggled with any definition of self that leaves out the mind. I list "smart" as one of my best qualities. Because, in fact, I think my brain's kinda sexy!

Recently, though, a teacher of mine explained meditation differently. She said that meditation wasn't about getting rid of your mind, it's about letting it rest. When I'm not calling on it to perform -- or rather, when I'm not rewarding it with my attention for performing -- it will take a break. And I can just rest in the peace and quiet. And I can feel the air conditioning on my legs. I can hear the thrum of the traffic outside. I can smell the barbecue wafting in through the window. I don't have to jump through hoops of worry. I don't have to repeat song lyrics or plan the day. I can just be here now and relax.

When I started the Year of Yes (well, ok, the 14 months of yes), I assigned the months to the qualities randomly (using Excel, because I'm a dork). Because of the way things are turning out, the month of Presence is being followed by the month of Mind. August is all about mental pursuits, the delight of ideas for the sake of ideas, and generally pushing myself to new perceptions. I've picked up a book that I think will be appropriate -- Change Your Brain, Change Your Life. And I'm looking for good lectures and learning opportunities.

At the same time that I'm fascinated by pushing my brain to new limits, I also want to retain what I've learned about presence so that I'm thinking only when I choose to. So that I'm the boss of my mind, not the other way around. I want to drive the mental bus and not just be some random passenger in a mental version of Speed. (Because if my mind the bus, what the hell is Keanu Reeves? Riddle me that one, fancy brain!)

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