The other day I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by things – my feelings, my chattering mind and my perception of the world around me. It’s at these times that my general wellbeing can be balanced on a knife edge; either I will fall deeper into the chatter of my mind and get horribly lost or my awareness will give me a shake and I can choose to take a moment to step back and see.
On this occasion I found myself staring out the door of my studio at the clouds moving across the blue sky and a question appeared in my mind: “what is real right now?” I would ask myself this every day – often many times a day, when I first started practicing mindfulness; back then I had to be so vigilant as my mindfulness practice was there to save me from some very self destructive behaviours and this question saved me over and over again.
The nature of our human mind runs us ragged, a ‘problem’ arises and before we know it our minds are off running a thousand scenarios, every if and but and every imaginary conversation until our central nervous system is flooded with the emotions that the thinking triggers. Often we then begin to seek ways to relieve ourselves of these feelings or we start to react to them, making rash decisions and sharing our stress, anxiety or anger with those around us. So when we’re lucky enough to see this happening we can ask ourselves… what is real right now?
It’s a powerful question on many levels so let’s start at the basics…
What is real right now? I’m sat here in my studio, I can feel the keyboard at my fingertips, my chair holding me, my feet on the foot rest of my stool, I can smell the plant on my desk, I can hear the music I have playing. If I look around I can see the things that litter my desk, my garden out the patio doors. All these things, experienced through my senses bring me back to the present moment – and it’s only here that I am given the potential to make a conscious choice where I now direct my attention.
So now I can consciously choose to go a little deeper… again, what is real right now? If I go into my body I can feel I’m carrying a little bit of anxiety, there’s some energy moving around my abdomen and lower back, there’s a bit of sadness in my chest. I accept all of this as part of my current experience. Staying in the body and away from thought I can start to feel these feelings moving and shifting with my attention and acceptance. I begin to feel less anxious, the tightness in my chest is easing as the sadness turns to something more peaceful. I can focus on my breath, each breath entering and leaving.
Now that I’m firmly planted in the here and now and can ask myself again, what is real right now? This time I can address – if necessary – the external things that may need my attention, and from the present moment I may see things quite differently, I might notice how my emotional state was driving my thinking or visa versa or I might realise that I don’t have to be a superhero to get through my day or to have an impact on the world that I inhabit.
There’s another side to this question too; in our fast paced lives where information is thrown at us constantly through so many mediums, we are plunged into a world built on fear, on wanting and desire, on chasing or searching. Our natural human compassion is drowned out, our natural state of peace and love is dampened by our external world and the perceptions we’re programmed to make. So taking a moment to question things, to ask yourself ‘what is real right NOW?’ isn’t just good for you but it’s good for humanity as a whole as it leads us to a place where we can take responsibility of ourselves and our place in the world.
I hope this question helps you today.