Take It Easy

by Andrea Chilcote

This week, I’m having an adverse reaction to things that are “hard,” and so I’m practicing ease. This encore post seems appropriate today. It appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where I’m a weekly blogger. This summer, followers of this blog will enjoy bi-weekly archived posts that have appeared on The Spirited Woman but never before on this site. 

I’m struck by how many of my friends and colleagues have been touched by my resolve to not look back. We all know it’s an obviously sensible ambition to remain present and move forward moment by moment – there’s nothing that can change the past – but so many of you have said “It’s hard.”

“Hard” is a concept, a familiar state of being we’ve conditioned our minds to believe. Oh, I get it … in fact, a dear friend commented on one of my recent posts saying,  “See how easy it is …” and I immediately wanted to reply: “That was not at all easy! In fact getting to that realization was very hard!”

But I realized that “hard” can be a mental concept focused on the presumed future vs. the moment (“It will be difficult to remain present when my husband’s children visit.”) or it can be literally true (“This jar is hard to open.”)

What we need are tools for escaping from the mental concept of “hard” when it bears down, eclipsing the beauty of right now.

So how do we make being present “easy?” Many before me have written of and taught tools and techniques. I offer you mine in simple form.

Breathe. Attention to the breath brings attention to the body. When we focus on (or obsess on) what happened before, we are literally out of our physical bodies and in our mental bodies. Practical tool: When you feel fear, anxiety, or guilt – take a breath, then another. Notice it. The result? Your attention will re-focus on now, if even for a second.

Empathize. This one works if you can’t get clear on how you yourself are feeling in this very moment. How is a significant other experiencing it right now? Caution – it’s against the rules to consider what he or she thought or felt moments or days before. This is about now.

Focus. I know this may be the hardest one…oops! There’s that word again. But really, it is the most liberating thing we can do. Stop right now and focus – ask yourself, “What is true now?” and really pay attention. I’m betting it’s not as bad as your mind might have conjured up. If it’s not, enjoy the break. If it is, then you just got a dose of reality to use to take remedial action. Now.

Do what you can (not what you can’t). A friend reminded me of this piece of wisdom she learned in a workshop many years ago. I had told her that while I know that not looking back is a practice we all can manage, I do not know how to advise those who have suffered tragic losses. Who am I to suggest that they leave the past behind, if the past contained love and life that is literally not here today? What I realized is this. When one practices presence in small ways (staying focused amidst life’s small irritations, for example), the “big” things become easier because of habit, not because we worked on them specifically. We never lose the memories but we care for ourselves by experiencing them in the context of this very moment.

Think about the ways in which you work to stay present in your daily lives. What do you do when “showing up” here and now is essential? If you have a practice for times like that, it can work at all times.

Show Up Each Moment

Are you looking back over 2013 this new year of 2014?

A timely reblog – This New Year, I vow to show up each moment.

Show Up Each Momentby Andrea Chilcote

On this summer holiday weekend, half-way through 2013, it seems fitting to reflect back on my resolve to “not look back.” Hmmm… is that an oxymoron?

I’m not looking back over 2012 this new year of 2013. In fact, I don’t intend to look back again. This new year, I vow to show up each moment.

On the weekend I was talking with teacher and life coach Lauri Cloud. Once again, she nearly knocked me over with a blinding insight. “You know what trips you up Andrea?” she offered. “You keep looking back.” She went on to say that the popular advice that seems to be showing up everywhere today, telling us to release everything from past regrets to deep-seated, age-old feelings, is the very thought pattern that is keeping us (and me) from rising above them.

That made a lot of sense to me. I have worked to stay present in the moment at hand for at least as long as I can remember. And like so many lessons, I keep learning it.

Well, I have a new practice. I resolve to not compare my present circumstances to past situations. I will embrace each experience as if it is new. Now that doesn’t mean I won’t utilize the precious experience gained. It simply requires me to release the fear that inevitably accompanies the comparison.

Almost at the very moment I gained this insight, life presented an opportunity to practice my resolve, as life on earth does so often.

In the post-holiday days when many are easing themselves into the routine of their lives, I’ve been very busy with a combination of work and personal commitments. It’s the kind of time I’ve come to describe as “no room for error” – everything is planned and will work out fine providing nothing interrupts the schedule.

Dear reader, you know my next line. The plan was interrupted, by circumstances that surpassed its urgency.

So what did I do? I did what I know to be the only choice for me: prioritize the heart over the head. What I did not do was flawlessly execute my goal of being present and not looking back. As a result, I experienced ample stress. But here is the gem, the gold. Not one fear that was rooted in the past or future mattered in the end. The only times I was productive, at peace and of service to others were those moments in which I was present.

Why then, I ask myself – and you… why would we choose anything other than the present moment in this grand New Year?

This voice in your head takes you away completely from what is happening now. You’re out in some future moment where things might go wrong or you are trapped in the past where you are continuously replaying an old movie in your mind about the time you failed a school examination or someone said something unkind. You’re stuck, but you can’t see it. The movie feels like an absolute reality, and it keeps you from truly acknowledging or appreciating life as it is now. But it’s not reality. You can’t see the present. You’re too busy with where you want to be next (or where you were), which causes continual stress. The only solution is awareness, awareness that the voice in your head is really just repeating thoughts—no more, no less. Eckhart Tolle

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This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger.