Wherever You Go, There You Are.

The redundancy in the title parallels to "It is what it is", an overly used sentiment that folks use to justify being fine with whatever circumstances or environment they're currently in. When "Wherever you go, there you are" was chosen at graduation as our high school class motto 10 years ago, I remember thinking "seriously?!" and rolling my eyes at the idea of choosing such a simple observation to represent our class as a whole. It wasn't until years later that I started to find appreciation in having ties (very loosely via a silly class motto) to this basic concept of acceptance, awareness, and presence. 

When you start to break it down, the concept is simple. As humans, we are quite obviously physically present, wherever we are. We don't live in some extra-terrestrial world where we can leave our alive-and-well bodies one place and be hanging out somewhere else (yet). What's concerning is that while we are physically with ourselves 24/7/365, our minds are often elsewhere. Our to-do lists, schedules, and extra-curricular activities take up most of our brain space, and our bodies begin to "go through the motions". At a certain point, we begin to lose the connection with what it is we're actually doing.

In my early adult life, I've been working on making an honest effort to be more than just physically present in my life. For me, this means checking in often with things like my mood, energy, and thoughts. Part of this practice of being more mindful in my day-to-day life is accepting not only the current moment, but my state of being - whether that's happy, frustrated, emotional, excited, etc. Part of practicing mindfulness is accepting the moment as it is and not wishing it were something else, or different

We can all start to apply these very basic concepts of acceptance and presence in our lives. Here are a few ways to start really, truly "being where you are":

  1. Find your foundation. Are you standing? Are you sitting? Bring your awareness to the parts of your body that are connecting you to the ground. Notice any physical sensation around those areas: soft vs. hard surface, textures of fabrics, etc.  Using our senses as observation tools is one of the easiest ways to be "in the now".
  2. Check in with your thoughts. So often we equate our thoughts with absolute truth. We accept our thoughts at face value, which ends up completely influencing our emotions and behaviors. Notice how your thoughts are influencing your state of being, and see if you can question the validity of each passing thought.
  3. Notice your breathing. Plain and simple. Bring it down to your belly, start to deepen each inhale and lengthen each exhale. Find a rhythm and feel where your breath moves in your body. Slow it down.
  4. Find appreciation in each passing moment. This is much harder to do when the moment you're in is making you feel shitty. If what's happening is shitty, let it be shitty. Roll with the notion that everything around us is always in a state of flux, and check back in with #2.
  5. Set an intention. I can't imagine where I'd be (personally, and professionally) if I hadn't adapted to the notion of setting intentions. There are no rules about this: you can set a weekly intention, make it a daily thing, or dumb it down to "going to the store and smiling with kindness to each human I encounter". Your intention can be whatever you need it to be and directed toward whatever outcome you're hoping for. 

As we head toward our 10 year class reunion next week, I'm carrying with me the sense of appreciation for whoever spearheaded the "Wherever you go, there you are" motto and all my classmates who voted on it. I'm pretty sure I wasn't one of them, which is an endearing reminder that who we are today is likely someone very different than who we were in May of 2005. This realization comes full circle: this is true of all things, all of the time. It's up to us to engage and attend, or let life pass by.

Remember that there is only one important time and that is now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person you are with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.
— Thich Naht Hahn, The Miracle of Mindfulness