Monday, March 26, 2012

Thoughts on Being More Present

I have a lot of lessons to learn from yoga, such as how to fully immerse myself in the present moment, to separate myself from the planning/worrying part of my brain that analyzes the past to inform and shape the future. I need to learn how to breathe into the here and now, to acknowledge--and then let go--of tension and discomfort and float on top of the sea of this moment.

I've been thinking about this lesson a lot as I transition to a new city, as my schedule as a mother and a professional shifts, and as I undertake audacious/scary/uncertain dreams related to building/finding community and starting Austin's first public Montessori school.

I will not lie; it has been hard. It's hard leaving behind all the connections that sustained me and made my life easier (my daily walks with my neighbor and her daughter, the babysitting co-op, playdates with good friends and good conversation...). I have to make friends all over again. Although I have a long list of people to meet thanks to this blog, I'm an introverted person, which means that meeting new people drains rather than energizes me. That's not to say that I'm not incredibly thankful for the people I've met so far, but the early stages of relationships leech my energy.

Not only did I leave behind my individual friends, Matt and I also left behind our "couple friends." It's incredibly difficult to cultivate friendships with other couples that Matt and I both like (although we're working on it!).

And starting a school from scratch in a new place is no small undertaking. It can feel downright impossible (or at least insane) at times.

These past few weeks, when I did have spare moments, I found that my motivation was lower. I didn't feel like researching how to submit Articles of Incorporation to the Secretary of State office, nor did I feel like fully unpacking our garage. I worried that I was slipping into a weaning-induced depression, but honestly I think I've just been doing too much and--more importantly--expecting too much. I shouldn't expect to feel settled and fully-friended and completely enamored with my new city/life just shy of two months. I need to have patience for the transition. I need to pay attention to my breath and to breathe into the here and now.

It's a lesson I wish I would have learned as a new mother: "to have patience for the breathe into the here and now." In so many ways, my greatest strengths are also my greatest weaknesses. I am a problem-solver, an action-step-maker, a strategic-thinker, a time-manager. In many cases, I can activate those skills and side-step suffering. That's not the case when you're a new mother or you move to a new city.

Yes, there are still problems I can solve and action items I can add to my to-do list. Finding Henry childcare was a huge step in the right direction. Implementing a new weekly action plan has helped me feel less stressed. Taking the leap back into running and yoga has been transformative. But for every step forward, there will inevitably be some steps back or some hesitations. I need to have patience for the transition. I need to pay attention to my breath and to breathe into the here and now.

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Sharpiegirl said...

One of the great things about living in Austin is all the live and free music and bunch of free and family friendly stuff during the warm months. You will start seeing all the same faces over and over again which helps a new place feel more like home. At least for me it alway did...

If you feel like a small road trip Dave and the band he plays with will be at Oma's Secret Garden in Gruene on Sunday afternoon April 1st (right next to Gruene Hall) Gruene is just N of New Braunfels, on Sunday it is a very cool place to just walk around and shop/dip your feet in the river/listen to music at Gruene Hall and several little venues around town.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Carla! Yes, I agree! We went to a farm a couple weekends ago that was hosting a free concert. So fun!

And thank you for the invite. I've heard amazing things about Gruene. I'll run the idea by Matt. Henry now has noise-canceling headphones, so he is ready for concerts!

Anna said...

I find that attending a mama meditation circle (here it's called Sangha Mamas) really anchors me in mindfulness and helps me to stay present. Perhaps there is a local dharma hall where you are that offers something similar? Regular sitting or even just conscious breathing is a wonderful tool in my busy life balancing work, motherhood, marriage, etc.

Sara E. Cotner said...

That sounds wonderful, Anna! I am so, so bad at turning off/redirecting my thoughts during meditation. My mind seems to think that sitting and conscious breathing are an invitation to brainstorm new ideas and process other stuff that is going on. It's so frustrating!

Jenny said...

Have you read Buddhism for Mothers? I'm not Buddhist nor really someone who has ever practiced meditation with any sort of diligence, but I really loved that book and the mindfulness presented. It's a nice book because you can just read short snatches when you have the chance.

Shawn said...

Thank you for posting on this topic. I totally know where you are coming from because I am struggling with transition, too. I'm a planner and a worrier, so it is so hard for me and I know it has been hard on my boyfriend, too. My transition is due to different circumstances than you (finishing law school and struggling with unemployment/under employment)but I think no matter what the changes are, times where my life is up in the air have always been challenging for me. As I meditate and try to find peace, I will think good thoughts wishing you peace and contentment, too!

Anne-Marie said...

I too find myself worrying and planning a LOT, and meditation can be a lifeline when my head gets really hectic.

I used to feel like I was "bad" at meditation too because I always had to redirect my thoughts back to my breath. I still have a very busy mind, but I've found it so helpful to treat myself gently and lovingly as I bring myself back. I've found it helpful to acknowledge that redirecting my thoughts is also a valuable exercise.

Michelle said...

I have the book The Presence Process by Michael Brown on my list for when I'm ready to really dive into being more present. For the moment I just don't feel ready for it though! I know what you mean about conscious breathing, it really helps me to say in my head "breathe in, breathe out" and whenever the thoughts creep up just start saying it again. But I'm still learning too! A great local resource is Carrie Contey, she's amazing! The Michael Brown book rec came from her too :-) Personally I've found lowering my expectations to be a wonderful way for me to feel more satisfied and present.

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