One of the pleasures of homeownership I’m enjoying these days is mowing the lawn. I’m actually serious – I enjoy being outside, working my body to sweat a bit, surrounded by the sharp green smell. I appreciate the result when I’m done, the patterns and stripes in the lawn. The whole yard looks fluffed up and shimmery, like a child basking in attention.
I’ve noticed, however, that when I start mowing, I usually go at it with a “let’s get this done” gusto. I’m pushing towards the finish line the whole time, as if there’s a reward for the fastest time. Yesterday I caught myself and laughed – “I’m enjoying this, so why am I hurrying?” I put myself back behind the mower, so to speak, instead of ten paces in front of it.
I’ve been examining my life lately for that kind of pushing energy, for when I’m living out ahead of myself. I’m on the look-out for the moment when I exit the present, so I can catch it and get back into my experience. So often, I’m pressed up against the windshield of my life, missing the scenery I’m flying past.
When I do catch myself, I’ve found a series of 3 steps that help me re-inhabit the present moment:
1) Breathe. Stop moving and take a slow full breath. Then another. Notice the sensation of the breath in my torso. This easy attention-anchor instantly reconnects me to my body.
2) Look backwards. First, bring my attention to my peripheral vision, literally. Then see if I can “look” through the backs of my eyes, out the back of my head. Let my attention inflate the back side of my body – my shoulder blades, my low back, the backs of my knees, the heels.
3) Slow down. As I return to the activity in front of me, I slow down my movements. I try to feel every fiber of muscle engagement. I keep my peripheral vision engaged, noticing what’s happening in the bubble of space around me.
When I succeed in peeling myself off the windshield and sit back, I have found the view through the side windows always makes me feel more whole.