Cultivating presence

I freely admit it, I stink at meditation. Sitting down on the floor with my legs crossed, attempting to achieve some state of inner peace usually means my feet fall asleep, my mind wanders off to my day’s to-do list, and I keep opening my eyes to check to see if I can be done yet.

For me, maybe it’s the the uncomfortableness of trying to sit in a prescribed way that just doesn’t feel right in my body yet. Maybe it’s the uncomfortableness of sitting still when the day’s list is long and overwhelming, and I feel like feebly trying to meditate is just wasting time. Maybe it’s the way my mind can be so easily distracted: jumping from hearing the sound of a car driving by to wondering if it’s time to get mine serviced to thinking I should wash it to wondering if I should start a load of laundry to remembering I needed to hem my daughter’s skirt to thinking she’s growing up too fast to thinking that I need to slow down and spend more meaningful moments with her to the sound of the furnace kicking on to wondering how much longer winter will last to wondering when I should plant the spinach and kale seeds to wondering if I want to plant enough tomatoes to freeze to trying to remember to ask my friend for her tomato soup recipe to…well, you get the picture.

Thankfully, meditation is a practice. Which means I can try again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Goodness knows I could use the stress relief it provides, not to mention all of the other health benefits and creativity boost.

Sometimes it’s having a bit of guidance that helps. Listening to an image-rich guided meditation that takes me on a mental journey can keep other distractions at bay. Counting my breaths, and then starting over when I notice my mind has wandered, also can work for me. For some, the single pointed focus (trataka) of staring at a fixed object like a candle flame is effective (but for me, my eyes just water and ache).

Thankfully, there are other possibilities to sitting on the floor in the kindergarten criss-cross applesauce style. There are the meditations of being fully absorbed in a repetitive task. Think the “wax-on, wax off” method from The Karate Kid. It’s probably why so many of us enjoy gardening, and even find mowing the lawn to be a meditative practice without realizing it. Growing up, I would turn the tasks of raking the hayfields or splitting firewood into a kind of meditation without even knowing the term: just simply getting lost in making rows to bale or observing the myriad of ways logs would split at the force of the blade. I know that on market days, when I bring home a basket of vegetables to prep for the week, that washing and chopping can be meditative. Noticing the textures of chard leaves and the colorations of stalk, the way the carrots formed as they pushed their roots into the earth, the pungency of onions as the knife slices through are all acts of being present to the moment.There are also the moving meditations: tai chi, Qi gong, yoga. Sometimes, in an early morning yoga practice, I will spend the first 15 minutes moving with my eyes closed (even if I’m in a crowded classroom), as a way to get more in touch with my body and breath.

And for a week or two each year, I am able to join my mother on a Florida beach before the dawn, walking for a few miles in starlight, feeling the texture and give of sand with each footstep, listening to the rise and fall of waves, and watching the ever-changing skyscape as the sun slowly emerges.Surely there’s a meditative practice here.So instead of beating myself up for failing at my idea of what a traditional meditation should look like, I can embrace and cultivate what is meditative in my life. Eventually, the sitting may come. I have the rest of my life to get closer.
Looking to develop your own meditative practice, or simply become more mindful of how you live your life? Evolution Power Yoga’s most popular program – 40 Days to a Personal Revolution – begins the spring session on Sunday evening, March 24. For six weeks, participants embark on a journey to wash away old, unproductive habits and step into a more invigorating life through dietary changes, yoga, and meditation. program questions and to register, email

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