August 7, 2023
We spend so much time wrapped up in our own thoughts, living in the past or future, and we often miss the beauty of the moments right in front of us. Today I offer you a few strategies for grounding yourself in the present moment.
The image above illustrates this wonderfully, and unfortunately I don't know who the original creator of this image is, but it says everything. Ever notice how your beloved pet sits there and observes everything? They are the epitome of mindfulness; using their senses, they are grounded in the present.
Humans do this at times... You arrive at the beach for a day of leisure. When you get there, you attune to your environment, taking in the scene before you. Where are people already set up for the day? Where are the loud kids you want to avoid? Is someone fishing off the shore and you desire a dip in the water? Do you want full sun or part shade? You give this attention because it matters to you.
But what about the other moments where you're oblivious to your surroundings? Try it now. Look around you and see what you haven't yet noticed in your environment. How long has it been like this without you even realizing? How many moments in your day are you missing out on because of the thoughts swirling in your mind?
The beauty here... the more you practice being present through different tools such as grounding, the easier it becomes and the more you'll notice this happens without effort!
Lineage of Concept
In Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, the second sutra 1.2 states "Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” As in, when we practice yoga, we let go of all of those thoughts and arrive at what is; the present.
Yoga, despite Western beliefs, is not just about what happens on the yoga mat. It's not just about the poses and postures, but is about a way of living. By living yoga, we arrive closer to ourselves, and can live more peacefully in the present moment. It certainly takes practice - humans are meant to think and wonder and plan and worry - but it is possible to slow these thoughts and look at things more objectively.
So in addition to feeling present while doing yoga asana, practicing mindful and grounding strategies like those shown in the next section can help to strengthen one's connection to the present moment and ease racing thoughts.
*If you are reading this and are from South Asian decent, please feel free to leave any comments about your experience, knowledge, or any misinterpretations I have made during my research!
Applicability in Life
I invite you to try out each of the following exercises. Make note of how you feel before, during, and after. Afterwards, you can decide if there are one or two that you liked the best, and then try practicing your favourite one daily or a couple of times a day for 5-7 days. See if you notice any changes or shifts in your mind or mood - please leave a comment or shoot me an email to share your experiences!
For the last few moments of the above exercise, you can practice one of the following each time you notice your mind wandering to unrelated thoughts.
Mindfulness of Sounds
Tibetan Singing Bowl
The first video - Mindful Moment - is something I do with my students at school before each class begins. It takes just one minute, and it's a very simple, yet calming and grounding practice. Sometimes if I forget to do it, students will remind me. Other times when I'm away for the day, students will volunteer to lead the class. Then there are also times where students come into class or during class get worked up or silly, and we do an extra mindful moment. I've also had students lead their parents through a mindful moment during stressful times - it really is powerful!
The body scan can be a useful tool for people who have a tough time falling asleep. It can also be handy if you're feeling off and are unsure why. Do a body scan to find out where in your body is feeling unexpected, and then breathing through the discomfort or acknowledging what your body needs in order to feel better.
I find the more that I practice mindfulness, being present, and calming thoughts, the easier this becomes, and the more it shows up in my daily life. When I practice yoga and meditation regularly (which includes many of the strategies shared today), I feel more in control of my thoughts and emotions, and find it easier to manage in daily life. I feel more calm and less reactive, can empathize easier with others, and can find more pleasure in simple things.