I’ve been taking my tai chi and yoga classes for a little more than a month now, and I’m noticing something I’ve never really paid attention to before — I am very rarely present.
Anytime we do savasana, or corpse pose, in yoga, my mind is going a mile a minute. I think about what I have to do after class, what I have to do tomorrow, should I get food or go back to my room and sleep… It takes me forever to get my brain to shut up for a couple of minutes (but when it finally does, it’s an awesome feeling). It’s the same when we do meditation in tai chi; since it’s an early class, I often find myself thinking hours and hours into the future. And since the time we spend on meditation is shorter than the time we spend in savasana, if I can’t “flip the switch” quickly, I’ve lost the whole purpose of meditating.
Why is it so hard to be present, to be in the moment? I know I’m not the only one guilty of this. Too often, we go through our lives thinking about everything else we could or should be doing, instead of focusing on what we are doing right then. Even now as I’m writing this, I’m singing a song in my head and thinking about making breakfast. I can’t even take the five or ten minutes it will take me to finish this post to just concentrate on writing it! But what good does thinking about the past or future do us? We can’t change the past, the future isn’t here yet, so all we have is the present.
As challenging as my classes can be, they’re teaching me a lot more than just forms and poses. They’re teaching me to slow down, to give myself the gift of relaxation. To be completely honest, the days that I have those classes are the only days I do any kind of pausing. So that’s only two days out of seven where I’m allowing myself to just let go and relax. Can you see why this is not really a good thing? If I’m going through the majority of my week tense and anxious, by the time Monday rolls around, it’s going to take me a lot longer to be able to get myself to relax when the time comes. But when it happens…
Monday during savasana, a strange thing happened. I lost consciousness while my professor was talking us through the relaxation. I would be listening to her tell us to place tension in a certain body part, and then… nothing. When I regained consciousness, I realized that I was still just lying completely still, even though we were supposed to be at the point of tensing our whole bodies. I heard my classmates’ arms hit the floor even though mine were still at my side. That had never happened to me before. Where did I go for that minute or two that I “blacked out”? Did it matter? Everything else was gone — my classmates, professor, the room I was in… all gone. It was just me. And it was wonderful.
Then today during our relaxation in tai chi, our professor was explaining the different poses we could do during the meditation. The one I liked, for no reason I could really explain, was dhyana mudra. This is when the hands are resting in the lap, right hand over the left with the thumbs touching, palms facing up. It is a pose of mediation and contemplation and allows us to connect with our higher selves. Unfortunately, five minutes isn’t really a long time to connect with anything (at least not yet), but I’m slowly (very slowly) getting to the point where it doesn’t take me as long to be present. I focus on my breathing, and it gets a little easier to concentrate.
I’m looking forward to my yoga class and savasana later today to see if I have the same experience I had Monday. I think I need that moment of being completely oblivious to the rest of the world. And I want to learn how to do it on my own, so that I’m not waiting until Monday and Wednesday to relax. Who knew being present would be so difficult to master?