NOTE: This post was originally published on my previous blog, The Healing Project.
A few years ago, I became highly “accident prone.” I broke three toes in three separate incidents, one of which necessitated a fairly involved surgery with a lengthy recovery time. I repeatedly bumped into things and hit my head on at least ten different occasions. After one of my head bumps led to an emergency room visit and a CAT scan, I decided I needed to look more closely at what was going on with all of my accidents.
Not Paying Attention
I came to the conclusion that a large part of the problem had to do with not paying attention to what I was doing. My mind was always on what I had to do next, not on what I was doing in the moment. I frequently rushed around and felt frantic about getting everything done in a timely fashion. I was always running late to appointments and often drove too fast and somewhat recklessly trying to reach my destination on time. Needless to say, I was not living my life in a relaxed fashion!
A Simple but Significant Decision
A little over a year ago, I decided to allow myself more time to get things done and to be more mindful about my actions. This one simple decision made a significant impact on my life. Not only did I stop bumping my head, arms, and toes every few days, I also found myself feeling much more calm and peaceful. I began paying more attention to what I was doing in each moment instead of living for the future, whether it be two minutes or two years later. Without really intending to start being present as a spiritual practice, I experienced strong benefits in that realm. I started to become more of the person I wanted to be – happy, peaceful, calm, and joyous.
I have read that even washing the dishes can be a spiritual practice. At first I scoffed at such a suggestion, but I now know the veracity of that claim. When one is fully present to whatever action he or she is taking, a stronger connection to divine energy is experienced. As someone who has tried and failed to meditate in the traditional sense over the years, I learned that there are many forms of meditation. Some are more sedentary and include the lotus position and mantras, while others are more active and involve being completely focused upon whatever actions one is taking. The latter works better for me, at least for now.
I remember attending a retreat which included an activity called “walking the labyrinth.” This exercise is a type of “walking meditation” in which one walks through a maze-like circuitous path to the center of a labyrinth and back out again. There is only one way in and one way out, so there are no decisions to be made along the way. If desired, one can set an intention or ask a question before entering the labyrinth, but neither of these actions is necessary.
The activity of walking the labyrinth quiets the mind in a way similar to traditional meditation. I enjoyed this activity very much and have since learned that there are labyrinths all over the world. According to the Labyrinth Society, there are six labyrinths within ten miles of where I live! Perhaps a regular visit to a local labyrinth should be an integral part of my effort to experience “the power of now” (by the way, I highly recommend Eckhart Tolle’s wonderful book by that title!).
Slipping Back Into Old Habits…
A few weeks ago, my husband and I were gearing up to go on a trip for several days. Unfortunately, I did not allow myself enough time to get ready to leave and found myself frantically rushing about and still far behind our planned schedule. It is no big surprise that I hit my head, forgot to pack a critical item (underwear, believe it or not!), and ended up in a foul mood. I had gone to bed late and wanted extra sleep in the morning, so I didn’t allow myself the additional preparation time which would have rendered the entire morning far less stressful. I was thinking a step or two ahead instead of focusing on what I was doing in the present moment.
Fortunately, I didn’t hit my head hard, I was able to purchase underwear once I reached my destination, and felt much calmer and in better spirits shortly after we were on our way. But I did learn a valuable lesson from my negative experience. I need to honor my commitment to give myself more time than I need to get things done and to be fully present to whatever I am doing in any given moment.
Louise Hay’s Insights
I also decided to take a look at what Louise Hay has to say about accidents and being “accident prone.” Like everything else in life, Louise believes that we create accidents as a result of our negative thought patterns. She also states that accidents are expressions of anger and indicate built-up frustrations resulting from not feeling the freedom to speak up for one’s self.
Accidents can be related to rebellion against authority or anger toward ourselves. The accident is a way to punish ourselves and to receive sympathy and attention from others. The area of our bodies in which we experience pain from the accident can give us a clue as to which area of our lives we feel guilty about (see Chapter 15 of “You Can Heal Your Life” for “The List” of physical problems and probable causes).
A Wake-Up Call
Whether you believe Louise Hay’s explanations for accidents or decide that they signify the need to be more careful and present, accidents can represent a “wake-up call” for you to make changes in your life. Either way, the message is to look within and examine your thoughts and behaviors more thoroughly. It is never a good idea to just go through the motions of life in a virtual fog.
All too often, people numb themselves out through addictive behaviors, “busyness” and projection of their feelings and motivations onto others. While I have definitely done all of these things in the past and sometimes slip into such maladaptive tendencies from time to time, I choose to be fully present to my thoughts, my motivations, and my life. There is beauty and richness to be had in all of life’s experiences!
I need neither future nor past, but to learn to take today not too fast.” ~Jeb Dickerson
Having spent the better part of my life trying either to relive the past or experience the future before it arrives, I have come to believe that in between these two extremes is peace.” ~Author Unknown
4 thoughts on “Staying Present”
I too have this problem. I never focus on the present. A good book I read years ago talked about this. It’s not a self-help or anything. It’s a semi-autobiographical novel by W. Somerset Maugham (one of my favorite writers) called, “Of Human Bondage”. The main character never lived in the present, he was always thinking, “My life will be great next year when I……”
Anyway, if you’re looking for a slower pace of life, come to Panama. I’m never usually relaxed but there’s not much to do here, so you deal.
Hope you guys enjoy your mini-vacation!
Kristin, Thanks for your comment. I haven’t read “Of Human Bondage,” but I loved “The Razor’s Edge,” also by Maugham. I am now intrigued to read “Of Human Bondage.” I think it would have been a good book club book!
I hope you’re enjoying your time in Panama. Sometimes a change of pace can be good for us. Our trip was to Tahoe but just for 4 days. It was fun to get away, but I hope to be less stressed prior to my journey next time around (oh, and to remember underwear, too!).
Take care and enjoy the rest of your vacation, Debbie
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