A few weeks ago, I was telling someone about the time I went on a 10-day silent retreat. The response I got almost made me roll my eyes, because I tend to hear it all the time: "I could never be silent for 10 whole days. How did you do it?" The short answer (albeit a bit of a snarky one) -- I like my own company.
The truth is, I do plenty of things by myself. I have been blessed with a number of wonderful friends, but I don't always need to be in the company of another. I go out to eat by myself (yes, in public -- GASP!), I go to the movies by myself, I take workshops by myself, and I got on vacation by myself. It doesn't matter whether I'm single or in a relationship. I take myself out and show myself a good time (yep, I am one hot date, that's for sure).
Frankly, I don't understand the big deal about this. I find that doing things on my own is fun and it gives me the opportunity to meet other people. I have a made a number of friends this way. To me, it's not about being alone or with a friend/lover but about engaging in life. I like to engage life whether I have company or not.
Last week, I went to dinner by myself. I was craving the yummy tuna tartare mini tacos at one of my favorite local restaurants. Between the live music and the food, I was in hoggy heaven. It was a party in my mouth and a party for my ears. Yep, I was loving it. What I wasn't loving was something disturbing that I observed -- many people dining together were interacting with their cell phones more than each other. I had to laugh at the irony -- society would normally pity me, the poor girl eating alone, but I would much rather be alone than with someone (friend or lover) who wasn't engaged or present.
Why is everyone so afraid of being present, anyway? What's so scary about the present? Heck, it's better to be in the present than the past or the future -- it's a lot less stressful.
Let's bring this back to yoga (come on -- you knew I was going there; I always do). How are you not being present in your practice? Do you zone out by focusing more on your neighbor or the teacher's words or the view from the studio window? Speaking from personal experience -- zoning out during yoga=injury.
Before I go on, I must make a personal disclosure. I am certainly not the here, now champion of the world. What I am good at, though, is bringing myself back when I realize that I have zoned out. I still have my, "Doh! You know better than this" moments, but on the whole, I strive to be compassionate with myself as I gently bring myself back to the present.
Right now I have some decisions to make regarding my future and I have a hard deadline in which to make these decisions. When I start zoning out into the future, it's the same as what happens on the yoga mat -- ouch! I find my body contracting, my breath accelerating, and my mind starting to jump around from one scary scenario to another. In short, it stresses me out.
If you find yourself lacking in the present moment engagement department, try this (incidently, this is something I learned on that nifty 10-day silent retreat):
--Take a comfortable seated position --Begin to notice your breath. Don't try to change it or judge it in any way. Simply notice the quality of your breath (shallow or deep, slow or fast, etc.) --Now bring your focus to the gaps between inhalation and exhalation. --Stay focused on these gaps and simply bring your attention back to them if your mind wanders.
Try this for 5-10 minutes and notice what happens when you're done. Congratulations -- you've just engaged with the present moment. Feel good?
I love technology, but I'd choose the present over a fancy cell phone any day.