I was blessed with three wonderful days in a cabin in Kerhonskon (or as I like to call it “Kerhonk-a-ponk), NY the fist weekend of January. It’s hard to believe I almost didn’t go. After being undecided and flip flopping for months, I made the decision to go a couple days beforehand. I had no idea it would help me get closer to the answer to what I’ve been pondering for years: how to be at peace with life
Of course, Spirit had something else in mind.
I tried to start my oh-so-serious spiritual study in the car… Turns out it’s pretty hard to digest complex theories on life and the meaning of everything, while the entire Hamilton soundtrack is playing.
As much as I was bent on not throwing away my shot ????, it was difficult to listen to The Power of Now without the anxious awareness that while going inward I was missing out on the people and opportunities right in front of me. So, I put it aside and something else fell into my lap — some “light” reading from my backseat buddy: How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh. If you know who Thich Nhat Hanh is, you know that this was in no way “light” reading, though it brilliantly exuded a light and airiness one longs for on hodge-podge spiritual retreat.
But, I had never heard of him and the book was so small and playfully designed, I wasn’t expecting to encounter the subtle profundity that was captured in each seemingly pedestrian (pun intended) and colloquial sentence.
My intention for spiritual awakening was met, but not the way I planned.
I told myself I would make it into the spiritual retreat I’ve been longing; I would get through at least one of three lengthy spiritual books I’ve been thinking about and journal endlessly. Enlightenment, here I come.
And Like Children, We Must Learn to Walk
When you walk, if you are aware that you are alive, that is already enlightenment. You are aware that you have a body; that is already enlightenment. You are aware that your feet are strong enough for you to enjoy walking; that is also enlightenment. When you walk, it can be a celebration. When you breathe like that, you are celebrating life.”
from How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh
There were so many beautiful takeaways from this little breath of fresh air, but the one that has left the largest imprint on me is how often we rush to the next thing, whether that’s the next thing on our schedule or the next phase of life, unaware that we are simply rushing to our graves. (You might even be reading this and rushing towards “the point.”)
I love this passage from How to Walk:
Even the thing so many of us fear the most, death, is all around and upon us.
So, where are we hurrying to?
Why We Rush and Why It’s Futile
We don’t have to wait until we die to return to Mother Earth. In fact, we’re in the process of going back to Mother Earth right now. Thousands of cells in our bodies are dying each moment, and new ones are being born, Whenever we breathe, whenever we walk, we are returning to the Earth.”
One of the reasons I find myself rushing is that I’m uncomfortable with the present. I’m a woman of vision, evident by my 2019 vision casting challenge. I love thinking about the possibilities of the future and relishing in the beauty that anything can happen. I can fall in love with my soulmate. I can climb Mount Everest. I can write a bestseller… but when I become fully present, I come face to face with what is and not what can be.
But, as Hanh notes, there is nothing but the present. The present is all there is.
This reminder has made me aware of other little ways I try to escape the present, like how often I say “I can’t wait to…” or when I check the time incessantly waiting for a part of my day to be over, instead of soaking in all that life is trying to offer.
It’s like when you try to force an orgasm along, but your body wants you to be patient and enjoy all the pleasurable moments before the peak (or many peaks ????). In fact, the more you try to speed things along, the sooner the whole thing shuts down or drags out, forcing you to take your time.
how to be at peace with life
5 Ways to Receive Peace in the Present
Our bodies are not just a great analogy here, but our little helper in our journey to the present.
Hanh proposes one way you can increase your presence using your body: walking meditations. But there are a myriad of ways we can use our bodies and mindfulness to slow down and receive the present moment. Here are a few practices that can help us find joy in every moment, while still creating the vision we have for our lives.
- Reduce your overall experience of rush – Leave early/start early.
This is particularly useful if you want to incorporate more walking meditations in your daily routine. If you’re prone to rushing to your next destination, add a few extra minutes to your commute so that you can enjoy the journey and notice things along the path you might have missed. This can look like waking up earlier or scheduling a larger transition period between tasks. Simply, choose a part of your day or week that you perpetually find yourself rushing and make the necessary shifts in your schedule.
- Watch your words.
Eliminate phrases like “I can’t wait” or “I’m dying to.” When I find myself tempted to use these phrases, I switch them out for “I’m looking forward to _____” and I ask myself what is it that Spirit intended me to do during this waiting time. There is a reason everything in life does not happen all at once. As much as time is an illusion, it’s a fundamental part of our human experience. So, instead of seeing the time waiting as an enemy, see it as a friend. How can you use that precious time? Consider what preparation you can take for that upcoming event or what other activities and tasks that would be perfect for that time.
- Take your time.
Along with eliminating moments and language of rush, practice taking your time with little and big tasks. This may be noticing the sensations in your mouth while you brush your teeth or noticing your breath while working on a work project. Consider how you can be more aware throughout your day and enjoy every part of every task.
- Add the active waiting time for your goals to your vision.
We all hold up the peaks of life as the thing to strive for, like weddings, the big promotion, the receipt of an award or recognition. We think that this is the thing to vision and focus on and arrive to. However, using the orgasm analogy again, climax is only a moment in the process. Even if you have mastered the art of extended orgasms or maintaining an orgasmic state, that state is reached by an appreciation of and awareness of the pleasure of every step of the way.
Orgasms themselves demand your full attention and your full presence. Similarly, we need to re-envision the way we cast and use our visions. While creating my most recent vision board, I included images that reflected how I imagined I would learn and progress along the way and how I want to feel and be every day. When you include the active time between your goals (aka the majority of your life btw) you rewire your brain to see all of life as an opportunity to have a create that vision. Every present moment is just as much a celebration as the peak.
- Let your body lead.
Have you heard the saying: Everything you need is already inside of you. Our bodies have wisdom; they’re here to help us on our journey in this life. Just as we need to stop seeing time as the enemy, we need to view our bodies as little helpers instead of detesting the way it requires rest, movement, and it’s cyclical demands like those to expel waste and prepare to host life.
When your body makes a demand, follow it. For example, instead of ignoring your need to pee, so that you can squeeze in a few more hurried minutes of work, be present to the demands of your body and relieve your bladder. When your muscles ache to be stretched or exercise, honor them and they will bless you. Just the simple awareness of a full bladder never fails to pull me away from wherever my mind has wandered and into the present physical reality, reminding me that I am alive and full.
Take a Baby Step – Grow Deeper
Hopefully, you will implement one or more of these practices in your daily life. Over the years, I’ve realized that the key to actually activating progress in my life, is to create a bias for action. So whenever I learn something that I think will help me on my journey, I try it out immediately or put in my schedule to try within the week. I’ve been promoting this bias to action through weekly challenges here on Evergreen.
If you would like to consciously choose this week to create more awareness and enjoyment of the present moment: check out this comfort zone challenge, inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s How to Walk. And while you’re at it, download your free guide to manifestation, which will show you how to embrace the present and start creating and attracting your desires to you using what you already have within and around you, right now.