How would things change for you if you knew that wherever you are is exactly where you should be?
In other words, regardless of whether you're satisfied or unsatisfied with your life, or experiencing immense happiness or working through an extremely difficult situation, that any and ALL of these experiences are exactly where you should be?
In addition to this, imagine discovering there's a way to happiness and less stress which is far more rooted inside of yourself, than anything that exists in your physical surroundings.
On the surface, it might not be easy to wrap our minds around these ideas. After all, aren't we happier when we're constantly keeping busy, achieving things and in pursuit of something better? Yes, perhaps, at least for some of the time, this might appear true.
But when we're constantly focused on the road ahead, as opposed to where we are right now, there are some surprising consequences.
One of them is increased stress, or put another way, increased suffering.
Eckhart Tolle says:
Stress is caused by being 'here' but wanting to be 'there'.
Believe it or not, the constant pull and striving in our lives to 'get somewhere' with our jobs, our relationships, our health, with wanting something to be different than what it actually is, is a significant cause of stress.
Interestingly another cause of stress lies inside our own minds. Research has uncovered that our minds tend to drift and wander approximately 46% of the time (often referred to as mind-wandering states or the monkey mind).
This means that for half our waking hours, we are thinking about something else, other than what it is we're actually doing. Our brains are wired so that we can complete complex and repetitive jobs without even being conscious of our actions.
This happens during many of our most common daily activities like when we're brushing our teeth in the morning or taking a shower. What's more concerning is that we're highly likely to be in mind-wandering mode when we're eating, or in our relationships - and especially when we're at work.
Why is this concerning?
Do you ever finish a bag of chips or eat a bowl of ice cream before you even realize what you've done? You could call this mindless eating, or eating on autopilot and it can leave you feeling unsatisfied, hungry and wanting more.
When we aren't present in our relationships at home and at work, our relationships can go down the road of routine and slip into auto-pilot mode. Auto-pilot mode and routines helps us master our lives to make them easier to manage, but in turn this can prevent us from welcoming change and uncertainty which are ever increasing realities of both business and life.
In learning to be more awake and present in our day, what we discover is how much more clarity we have, how much more we're able to skillfully navigate obstacles, how much more our relationships improve through deeper listening, how our health changes for the better and something that's made a huge difference in my life is how we become more curious!
So, how do we come to be more at ease, as Jon Kabat-Zinn says 'with the full catastrophe' of our lives and all the varied circumstances and twists and turns that surround us - and still know that wherever we are, is exactly where we should be?
For one thing, it helps knowing this: it's the nature of the human condition to encounter pain, loss, grief, suffering, sadness, as well as joy, love and happiness. There's a certain peace that comes from knowing this reality that life is both difficult and wonderful.
There is a powerful flow that begins to happen at home and at work, that comes from knowing wherever you are, is exactly where you should be.
Granted, in some ways, it makes absolutely no sense. Especially if you're going through a terrible illness, or a tough time at work, or a breakdown of a relationship.
But here's the thing, the moment you bring your full attention and awareness to wherever you are, you are present.
And when you are present, you're exactly where you need to be.
Because the present moment is all you've got.
And what's more, there's an incredible gift that exists within the present moment.
The gift of being awake. The gift of being here, right now, in this moment. The gift of awareness, especially regards to how fleeting life is.
Reconnecting with how it is, now.
Just stopping and dropping in on the present moment.
It doesn't require effort, it's like an effortless effort.
The place to begin or start, is with the simple practice of bringing our full awareness and attention to the physical sensations of the in-breath and out-breath as often as we can.
Then repeat, again and again.
Bringing our attention to the breath, getting distracted, noticing that we're no longer focusing on the breath (because our attention was pulled away into thoughts or feelings) and simply, without judgement, retuning our attention to the breath - is the work.
This very basic practice teaches us patience, strengthens our equanimity (the ability to not interfere with - but rather be with whatever arises), builds our concentration power and focus, and - certainly in my own experience - over time - teaches us about compassion and humility.
Why not check in on yourself right now?
Maybe there are thoughts or feelings that are there. Maybe there are sensations in the body. Just notice these things. And then, in your own time, take three conscious slow deep breaths, feeling your lungs expand and contract.
Noticing wherever you are, in this moment, and knowing that it is exactly where you should be.