“You can’t calm the storm so stop trying. What you can do is calm yourself and the storm will pass.” – Timber Hawkeye
I have been practicing meditation daily for a few years now. At the time something happened that shook me to the core: I found out a friend and co-founder of a company had betrayed me, worked behind my back and pretty much stole our mutual projects. It was all falling apart – I was losing my creative work, a dream, and most of all, something I thought was a good friendship.
With a storm of feelings raging in my chest, and a million of thoughts making my head want to explode, I sat and wondered how I could deal with the situation I found myself in. Then I realized I had no other options than to spend the day being there for myself, fully. Even though I knew something about mindfulness, this was my big chance to make it work. And to my surprise, it did. I cut all communication and distractions out and meditated from the early morning till late evening, working towards calm and peace. There were tears, there was grief, there were ruminating thoughts, but there was also presence, and there was peace.
They say mindfulness is just the presence of our awareness in the present moment, and it is true. However, there are many variations and ways we can bring ourselves into the present moment. Here are some of the things I did that day, and they helped tremendously.
I sat down and just listened to the sounds around me. Not to my raging thoughts, not to what was going through my head and causing me pain. I listened to the outside world – there was a bird chirping outside, there was the sound of cars passing by, some kids were playing in the streets, giggling and talking, there was the hum of the computer and sounds coming from my neighbors. There was life out there, and I could be present to it when I switched my mind off.
This exercise is the simplest and fastest way to get you back into the present moment. When I felt overwhelmed by the whole situation, I just focused on my breath. Breathe in, pause for a second, breathe out. Repeat. Make the breath deep and follow it all the way in and out. Count in and out breaths and see how far you can get without losing count. When you wander off, gently come back and continue. Breathing calms the central nervous system down and regulates the mood chemistry in the right way.
Do things consciously
I was hurt, and I didn’t feel like doing anything, but instead of sitting there sulking, I brought myself along into all the activities I had to do. The easiest way to do this is to name actions and sensations as you do and experience them. For example: “I am washing my hands, the water feels warm and nice. It is pleasant. I am wiping my hands dry; the towel is soft. I am closing the bathroom door; it makes a squeaky sound. I am sitting down to meditate; my legs are sore.” I was present as much as I could throughout the day and kept bringing my attention back to the now moment.
At the end of the day, I realized it could easily have been one of the worst days in my life. There was still feelings and sadness, but there were stillness and patience with them, there was a greater presence. A sense of calm and of quiet acceptance pervaded my whole being. That’s when I knew that, if I could get through such a difficult day by being present with myself, there is a good reason mindfulness has been brought down to us from ancient spiritual traditions. It simply makes life easier.