I was recently walking through a forest to get to a lake for a swim. On my walk, I felt an itch to reach for my phone – a familiar impulse. There wasn’t anything that I needed to check; I had read emails and messages just a short while earlier. I wasn’t actually waiting for anything, but I had a strong feeling that I was waiting for something else.
We spend so much of our lives waiting; waiting for the next thing, waiting for another time. Where our lives our so intimately connected with one another, we also wait on others. The present continues to unfold, but we are so often not available to experience it.
Anyway, back to the forest:
Whilst allowing the feeling of waiting to be there, I resisted the urge to look at my phone. I switched it on flight mode and this is when I started to truly ‘arrive’ in the forest. My experience immediately felt more vivid – the colours, birdsong, the felt sense of my body moving through the landscape. This also allowed me to tune into my emotional landscape with some of the tender and loving attention that it needed. As I walked, breathing in the forest air, I felt some of the holding that I had been carrying around my heart starting to melt.
When we are able to realise that we have got lost in the future or the past, this can change everything.
I love these lyrics by Alicia Keys in Underdog:
“One conversation, a single moment
The things that change us if we notice
When we look up, sometimes”
Here are 5 things that have been helping me to land again in the present moment. They can all be done in stillness or when going about your day.
1.Touch – (this is elevated to the top because perhaps like many of you, I’ve been missing touch a lot during the times of the pandemic)
A simple hand on heart or hand on belly can help to come into contact with this moment. Just feel into the sensations of this contact. You can also be curious about any emotional echo that this touch has for you.
Here is a lovely short video demonstrating 5 simple cranial hold. These are also helpful in helping to calm and soothe the nervous system.
3.Experiencing the pause between the inhalation and the exhalation
We inhale, and there’s a pause before the exhalation begins. We exhale, and there’s a pause before the inhalation begins. Dwelling in this stillness can help to experience the breath (an important bridge to the present moment) more fully.
4.Inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth
Begin by exhaling fully through the mouth. You don’t need to force this – my sister talks about exhaling softly, as if blowing out a candle, which I like. Inhale through the nose and continue exhaling through the mouth. Breathing like this can help us to feel more rooted.
5.Recalling a phrase that brings you back
Mine is ‘be here now’ (unfortunate Oasis album reference here, I know), and whispering these words to myself can coax me back into the present when my mind is racing ahead. Thich Nhat Hanh offers beautiful gathas (verses) for becoming more present when doing everyday activities.