Winter Wisdom from Molly Cofman
February 3, 2017
As we move deeper into the winter season, the days are short, energy has naturally turned inward, and we brace ourselves for the remaining cold weather. The holidays have now passed and with them the wonderful, colorful boxes tied with bows, full of treasures. Despite the seeming darkness, the stillness of winter actually gives us the perfect opportunity to focus on being present. All the treasures we need lie within us, and the present is our gift.
But what is being present? Or perhaps more importantly, how do we achieve it and why is it important? It is an age-old question, written about, strive for and pondered by philosophers, quantum physicists, and sages alike. Being present is finding the here and now. Being aware of, participating in and observing the world in this moment, without contemplating or bringing judgment about the how the past has gone, and without anticipation or fear about how the future might arrive. In an attempt to be present, we strive to find the balance between honoring the past but not dragging it with us, having visions and dreams, but not being bound to only one path to realize them. We are informed by the past and inspired by the future, but exist only now. We also, in being present, try to lessen the "chatter", the extraneous storytelling that is often happening in our heads. It is, like many wonderful things in life, something that takes practice.
The importance of being present rests in our ability to live life to the fullest. Being present affords us the opportunity to be in our most open, receptive state and thereby in a state where the body, mind and spirit can function at their optimal in any given moment. It is a state of quiet fluidity. Returning to the basic concept of qi (vital energy) flow, when we are scattered, our qi is scattered. When our qi is scattered, we are vulnerable to dis-ease, both mental and physical.
Having our minds and our hearts in many different places at once is sort of like having puppet strings attached to various places on your body, each puppeteer with a mind and script of his own, pulling the strings with no coordination. As you try to navigate the here and now, you are being pulled in many different directions and it can be tiring and disorienting. This awesome feat of having multiple puppeteers often leads to exhaustion, anxiety, sadness, frustration, insomnia…things that distract us from living well and feeling like ourselves.
We can be taken out of the present by many different things. This time of year, it is easy to get distracted by hectic schedules, talk of the winter weather to come, news, travel and obligations. All of this at the time of year that we naturally want to slow down, find quiet and reflect. The good news is that we can find peace and presence with some very simple techniques. As you navigate winter in a modern world that doesn’t necessarily follow the natural flow of things, you might consider incorporating one of the following (you never know, they might be useful for the rest of the year as well!):
1. BREATHE : It seems simple, but considering that your breath can affect both your heart rate and the state of your nervous system, it is nothing to scoff at. Breathing is something that happens automatically most of the time. Bringing your awareness to it, stopping to take a few deep, conscious breaths, can be a marvelous way to reconnect with the present.
2. SET AN ALARM : Practiced at many ashrams around the world, create a mindfullness bell for yourself. At intervals throughout the day, set your phone to ring a bell or chime (it is highly recommended that this is not the same noise that wakes you up in the morning!). When the bell chimes, stop what you are doing for a moment. Take note of where your head and your heart are, and reconfirm yourself to the present.
3. TOTEM : From time to time, I find it helpful to carry a cherished item in my pocket. It could be argued that this is not a great idea for the practice of non-attachment, however throughout the day, finding a small heart or a meaningful pebble in your pocket can be just what you need to keep you present. Let the finding of this small treasure be your reminder throughout the day to remain engaged.
4. MOVE : When we get overwhelmed or overwrought, it is the tendency of the qi to get a little stuck. Get up and stretch a bit, put your favorite song on and dance around for a few minutes, take a short walk. As your body moves, your mind can quiet down. From that quieter space, step back into the present.
Moving through the winter months, if even just for a moment, simplify, slow down, appreciate and be present.
Join Molly Colfman on our Italy Yoga Retreat in May!