Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future. The past no longer is. The future has not yet come. Looking deeply at life as it is in the very here and now; the practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.– Bhaddekaratta Sutta
Eradicating negative self-talk is the first step to pushing past limiting conditions. The constant drip-drip of toxic input into our psyche causes harm on many levels. An excellent way to measure your unhealthy thought patterns is by checking how you feel. This approach takes practice. You must be willing to face yourself and still your mind.
The first time I tried this, I was taken aback by the amount of noise in my head. It took a bit to work through the clutter, but eventually, my mind quieted. As time passed, positive thoughts became more prevalent. It takes work to move through accumulated blockages caused by daily living. Stress and anxiety from fast-paced living can nibble away at our lives, causing deterioration across the board. Sometimes this goes unnoticed, eventually catching up with us as we age. Taking time to face ourselves in stillness goes a long way to alleviating conditions that bog us down.
A few years ago after a serious illness, during the early days of my recovery, I came across a series of talks Oprah Winfrey did on Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth. In one clip, Oprah talked about how life and relationships were continually changing. When people are placed together in a setting, they immediately use technology to communicate with other people who were not present. They were more comfortable talking in this way rather than connecting to the person sitting next to them. Today, amid a full-blown pandemic, this mode of connection is no longer considered a luxury; it is a necessity. We have no choice but to utilize our electronic devices to make our lives work.
Be Still and Face Your Truth
In a previous clip, Mr. Tolle said when out for a daily stroll, he often saw people who were deeply engaged in conversation with each other or connected to technology via headphones. At the same time, the beauty of Nature went unnoticed around them because of an obsession to disconnect from the present moment. These conversations reminded me of how important it is to find stillness in each moment granted to us.
Before our Covid-19 reality, the stresses of everyday living often forced us up against walls visible and invisible. We were in a rush to get from one place to another; to meet one friend or the other. Always going and never letting up because we felt we had to get to some arbitrary finish line. It became challenging to find stillness within the madness of doing, going-after, and reaching. However, the past years have taught me the importance of pausing, breathing, and having clarity, awareness, presence, acceptance, and gratitude at every moment. After becoming seriously ill, I forcibly slowed down; took a step back. Even as I write, these ramifications from my health situation continue to unfold unexpectedly.
There are days when the anxiety and stress could take me down, but during those moments, I become still and step into clarity, awareness, presence, acceptance, and gratitude. At first, it was tough to turn my old mindset around, but I got better with practice. When you find yourself overwhelmed by the unpredictability of life, remember to take a moment to step into stillness. All it takes is a breath. There is no cost to do this, and it is accessible to each one of us.
More than ever, as we traverse the new reality of this pandemic, it is time to practice mindfulness. Look around and observe, listen, and hear, feel, and embrace each sacred moment that you have. As you spend much-needed time outside in the fresh air, take that moment to stop texting or obsessively posting when walking. Nowadays, since we utilize our electronics to stay in the loop due to the pandemic, we often miss out on Nature’s call. Whenever we can take a break, try to get outside: Enjoy the feel of the breeze gently waltzing over your skin. Listen to the wind having a conversation with the leaves on the trees; smell the organic scents of Nature as you stroll in the park; hold the hand or arm of the person you are with instead of grasping your cell phone; stop and lift your face to the sky to feel the warmth of the sun’s rays. If the urge remains to use your technology, capture the stillness in a photo, and share it with other friends and family who are too busy or sick to walk outdoors.
Find little moments of stillness within the madness as often as possible and share with others while you can. Feel life pulsing through your being at every given moment and find clarity, awareness, presence, acceptance, and gratitude NOW for all we have is now. Take pleasure in just that and work outwards from there as the energy of life unfolds from within.
This piece is an excerpt from work in progress, Sista Survivor: An Immigrant’s Spiritual Journey to Legitimacy