I was a lawyer when I took my first yoga class about 20 years ago. It was a weekly offering at our local YMCA. I still remember the wave of fear I experienced when our teacher told us to “let go of the past, let go of the future – just be present in this moment….”
You can’t be serious! a voice inside me protested. My clients and bosses rely on me to remember – in precise detail – everything that has happened in their cases; they also expect me to plan our future strategies for succeeding in court. The present is the last place I want to be stuck… I’d lose my job if I went there!
During the months that followed, I gradually learned to breathe more slowly and fully, and found I could relax my body and mind in class. Little by little, that early fear of losing all the important information I thought I needed to “hold” in my head began to fade away. Being present, I noticed, felt comfortable … even pleasant. I began to understand that, not only did showing up in the moment not do me any harm, it actually was enhancing my well-being – including my ability to remember details from the past, and to successfully plan future actions. And if that weren’t enough, I seemed to be feeling noticeably happier, too!
In hindsight, I now see how this shift happened … what led me to embrace the present, and how I happily learned to “be here now”. If you are thinking you might want to take the plunge into the present, yourself, here’s a quick primer that could help:
Breathe. Relax. Feel. Watch. Allow. There you go. Also known by its acronym, “BRFWA” (playfully pronounced “burf-wah”), this is your nuts ‘n’ bolts secret to showing up in the Now. Breathe, relax, feel, watch, and allow. Five simple words … and I promise they will change your life, if you put them into practice.
Because words can have nuances and layers of different meaning, I’ll offer you some brief thoughts to help you understand each BRFWA element:
Breathe: Obviously, if you are reading this, you are breathing. In this context, though, we are talking about the kind of breathing we practice in yoga — slow, full, relaxing, and natural-feeling breaths, for example.
Relax: This instruction is about letting go of tension wherever you are holding it — this could be anywhere in the body, in the mind, in your emotions…. Let go of whatever you are needlessly holding.
Feel: Feeling our body’s sensations (and emotions) happens automatically when we relax our mind. The feelings are already there, so it’s just a matter of our letting go of our distracting thoughts, and turning our attention to where the feelings are occurring.
Watch: This is about identifying with the aspect of ourself that is observing our thoughts and feelings — rather than identifying with the thoughts and feelings, themselves. (Instead of believing, “I am angry,” shift your perspective to notice that “anger is arising … anger is showing up as tightness in the jaw and eyes.” You are not the anger, in other words … anger is merely an energy movment that is happening within you.) Practice being the witness, not the actor.
Allow: This is a potent reminder to relax at your deepest levels, to stop trying to control the outcome of any given moment. My favorite analogy: Stop rowing your boat up river; instead, let go of the oars, and allow the current to turn your boat around and take you in the direction the river is going. Go with the flow … trust the current of the Universe.
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So there are the essentials for a powerful, effective, spiritual practice. If you stick with it, you will likely discover everything you desire or need on your Journey. The key to presence is to practice regularly. (We’ve had years of creating the habit of non-presence … now is always a good time to start!)
If you have any questions, or find yourself struggling with any of this, I would be happy to hear from you and lend my support. Please don’t be shy … it’s what I am here, on this planet, for. (I realized that, one day – while I was being present!)