About 3 weeks ago I wrote about lessons learned so far in my 30s. I wanted to elaborate on each lesson in that same post, but it would’ve easily turned into a book, so I decided instead that I’d write a separate post for each. And after taking the time to tell you my story, I feel like now would be a good time to dive into these lessons a little further. So, here we go!
Lesson #1: Learning how to be present in my life.
Ooooh yes. This is a big one! I spent all my life up until my 30s on autopilot, just going through the motions. One goal after another, doing everything I should do. It all paid off, so I’m for sure not knocking my accomplishments – undergraduate school, graduate school, getting my first “real” job out of college, moving states, paying off debt, getting married. By all “normal” standards, I absolutely did everything perfectly right.
Except, I wasn’t very present in my own life. Take my advice and stay woke, my friends.
Before waking up and becoming present, I read A LOT – it was my escape from stress and my work, work, work mentality. Reading kept me disconnected from my life. But, here’s the thing – I didn’t even know! I didn’t know or recognize that I wasn’t tuned into my life. I just simply was NOT self-aware enough. And not being aware meant that I didn’t acknowledge or deal with my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They all just got buried deeper and deeper.
The traumatic experience I referenced in my story broke me. Something about it woke me up to my life. So, it was around this time that I put the books down and stopped reading. I mean, I read a book here and there, but nothing close to the 4-5 per month that I was previously reading. I had to learn how not to escape, and instead, learn how to be present. And let me tell you, it was a conscious effort.
Once I stopped reading, I began spending time with myself, in my head, in my thoughts. I spent time listening to music, I started writing a lot. And it took me about 7 weeks after that experience to return to yoga, but when I did, I began learning how to be present. Being on my mat gave me the time and space to be with myself, to acknowledge all the things I didn’t really want to acknowledge but were now staring me in the face. This experience brought everything to the surface and forced me to dissect every thought and feeling one-by-one.
Maybe you’re wondering how it is I learned to be present. Well, it was and is a practice. For me, the first step was learning to slow down and not fill every moment with something to do that took my mind elsewhere and away from the present moment. I had to learn to sit with my thoughts, which I eventually began doing through yoga and meditation. At the end of my nightly yoga sessions, I’d spend about an extra 30 minutes just lying on my mat, being present in the moment, allowing my thoughts. It was hard! I had thoughts showing up that I didn’t want to have, that I didn’t know how to face. I had to really practice allowing, instead of burying and ignoring. This is why I say it’s a full-on conscious effort to be present in the moment.
So, it’s been, what, three years now that I’ve been fully tuned-in and present. It took me a while and a lot of work to get to get to the place I am today. It didn’t come easy, and in the process, I truly lost so much. But in the end, what I’ve gained is myself. And for that, I am entirely thankful.
It’s easy for me to sit here and say “don’t wait until something significant or traumatic happens to wake you up to your own life” – but truth is, maybe sometimes that’s just what it takes. Maybe that’s just how the cookie crumbles for some of us. And honestly, that’s sad. It shouldn’t need to be that way. So, here’s the thing, if you’re really good at burying things and you’re not at all self-aware, maybe pause for a bit and try to bring yourself into the present – BEFORE something or someone forces you to. Let it be done on your own terms, in your own time.
For me, it’s a practice to be present – all day, every day. It’s a choice you make daily. And you really must know yourself in order to get to the space of allowing and being present. Both of which take time and effort. So, start slow – perhaps allow yourself 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes before bed to sit in silence and see what thoughts arrive. I have so often found that in stillness and in silence come so many answers. You just must allow it.
I challenge you today to make a truly conscious effort to learn how to be present. How to acknowledge what is, even when you don’t want to, and especially when you don’t want to. Face your life head-on. Do the work it takes to be present, so that you know you’re choosing your life, and not just going through the motions on autopilot. I challenge you to CHOOSE how you envision your life to be. And if your vision doesn’t match your reality – it’s time for you to become self-ware so that you can be present enough to change, learn, and grow.
So, a reminder – take 5 minutes this morning and before bed tonight to sit alone with your thoughts. Then, try again tomorrow, and this time, write down the thoughts that come up. And then from there, keep building your practice of being present until you find what works best for you.
If you prefer music to go with your quiet time or meditation, this is a very relaxing option.