This guest post was written by Mary Jaksch, the author of Goodlife ZEN.
Do you feel like life is accelerating? Maybe you look back at the last five years and wonder where time went. It may even feel as if all that’s left is stress – without moments of joy and peace.
I must admit, I also feel like this sometimes. But when I do, I reach for the miracle cure. This miracle cure doesn’t come in a bottle. We can’t buy it.
We already have the cure for stress within us.
I’m talking about the miracle of ‘Now’. It’s quite amazing. When we enter the ‘Now’ and become present - even just for a moment - stress dissolves.
How can we become present?
Awareness is the key to becoming present. We often confuse awareness with concentration, but these two mind-states are very different. Concentration is like a narrow beam of light shining on a task.
Awareness is the soft, full light of attention.
The word ‘attend’ implies that there is tenderness at work… that we are seeing with our heart. Attention means paying tender regard to the beasts and birds, neighbors, coffee cups and pencil sharpeners. When we pay tender regard to the dishes, even dish-washing becomes a joy.
Toni Packer, a contemporary meditation master says:
Attention comes from nowhere. It has no cause. It belongs to no-one. When it functions effortlessly, there is no duality.
What she’s saying is that when we’re attending to the present moment, we lose the sharp distinction between the self locked in this skin-bag, and the world outside.
When we attend in this way, we feel the world open. And we make friends with our body.
Suddenly we become fully aware of the tenseness in our shoulders, the little bubble of hope in our mind, or the haze of sadness in our heart. And with this awareness we find that people are friendlier and cats purr louder.
Paying tender regard is simple, but not easy.
We need to stay steady in the face of our changing moods and the stimuli bombarding our senses.
What’s the connection with stress?
When we are stressed, our mind is split. One part is firmly focused on whatever is pressing in upon us, while the other part is giving minimal attention to whatever tasks need to be done quickly in the meantime.
Let me give you an example. Imagine that you are late for work and you are rushing around your home in preparation to leave. If a loved one starts telling you something important about what they are going to do today, how much of your attention is going to be focused on what they are telling you? Not much, I would think.
When we become present, we stop being preoccupied. In the space that opens for a moment, we can breathe deeply and listen deeply. For a moment, stress slips off our shoulders. And we can learn to have more and more moments of peacefulness in our life.
A student of mine wrote:
Each moment is a new opportunity. The next one is as fresh and full of promise as the thousand before that you missed, and it is completely empty of any judgment whatsoever. Nothing is carried over that you take with you. You don’t have to pass a good-person exam before you enter, it is totally unconditional. It’s as if it is saying… “Okay, so you missed me the last ten thousand moments, but look! Here I am again… and again… and again!” And you are welcomed with open arms.
Here’s how to take the miracle medicine:
There is a very simple way to become present. And the great thing is that the more you practice it, the easier it becomes. You can try it right now.
Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Listen to the sounds around you and feel the ground under your feet. As soon as you are present, gently touch your thumb and forefinger together on each hand.
This light touch is the trigger that can help you access the present moment, and escape stress.
Whenever you feel stressed, stop for a moment, take one deep breath, and touch your thumbs and forefingers together.
Mary Jaksch is an author, Zen Master, and psychotherapist. Enjoy reading her posts on Goodlife ZEN and follow her on Twitter.