Friday, September 11, 2009

Being Present

Students in Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana (High...Image via Wikipedia

I'm one of those people who multi-tasks. When my hands are set to one job, my mind gets busy on other things. Back when I was an accountant (last month) I would routinely put numbers into spreadsheets while listening to an audiobook, occasionally adding something to my shopping list. I was never totally focused on anything, and I didn't need to be to get everything done.

It took me years of yoga classes before I stopped multi-tasking on my mat. My body would be in an asana, but my mind would be critiquing my position or checking out the lady next to me or working on some problem. I'd be trying to figure out how to get my kids to the places they needed to be later or worrying about what time my husband would be home for dinner.

My breakthrough finally came at a time when stress had driven me into a deep depression and, after not having time for yoga, I returned to my practice seeking some relief from the stress. Desperate to escape my life for awhile, I started paying more attention when my teacher told me to quiet my mind. My mind still chatters every now and then, but even just moments of stillness have made a huge difference in my stress level.

When I started teaching yoga, my mind started chattering again. When I practiced on my own, I went over the poses in my head, memorizing how to instruct them. When I took a class, I was more focused on learning from the teacher's example, listening for nice phrases and good instructions to mimic when I taught. My practice fell apart, because I wasn't doing yoga for myself anymore. After awhile, teaching came easier and I found my way back to my own practice.

Lately I have noticed that, while teaching, I have to stay present to what I am doing with the class. As long as I am totally focused, the class flows effortlessly. It's as if some higher power is speaking through me, and I am just delivering his message. If my mind wanders, I lose my connection with the divine guru and I start to stumble over words, lose track of my lefts and rights, and can't think of what to do next. So I try to stay present. That means no worrying about what the kids are doing, no thinking about the next tweet or Facebook status update, no planning ahead to the next class. Just like I do in my own practice, if my mind starts to chatter, I have to take a deep breath and let it go.

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