How can I be present instead of thinking of the past or the future?

Even if you don’t ask yourself consciously “Where have I come from and where do I go? What is this life about?”, you will still come to points in your life from time where you are aware that your thoughts are constantly in the past or you are worrying about the future, or making all kinds of plans for the future. And that way of being causes tension in body and mind. So the question comes up:

“HOW CAN I BE PRESENT - HOW CAN I ENJOY THE PRESENT MOMENT?”

During the week of the retreat in the Etruscan Tuscany we came to more and more silence inside of us and thus more present to the present moment. The process to first “cleanse”, then “clear” and then “create” was just the perfect flow for all participants.

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1. CLEANSE

If you want to let go of things of the past that your mind goes back to again and again, it is good to practice becoming the outside observer, the witness. Here is a recording of the introduction to this practice.

And of course if you want to fast forward and instantly get back into the present moment you just have to focus on your breath. See how long you can stay with bringing your awareness to the nostrils feeling the cool sensation when you breathe in and the warm sensation when you breathe out before other thoughts run through your mind. ;-) Although that is not as easy as it sounds (most people don’t manage to do that for 2 minutes without other thoughts coming in) it always DOES bring you back to the moment - and it is a good way to start to concentrate instead of continuously practising to distract yourself what we call these days “multi-tasking’, though science has proven that we can only put our mind on one thing at a time.

Signs that show you are in good health - Part 1

Health doesn’t mean not being sick. We always hear what health checks we should be doing but nobody just prescribes a natural simple lifestyle. I had several doctors tell me that they had learnt about sickness but not about health. Health is a complex topic, but let’s bring it down to some basics without making it unnecessarily complicated.
First a list of some signs of really good health:

  1. You smile a lot and feel cheerful.

  2. You experience being in the flow of things - there is a lack of resistance and a lack of hesitation.

  3. Your digestion is regular. 

  4. You can do things slowly, but if you have time constraints you can do things faster, knowing you can bring yourself into a less rushed state of mind again when your tasks have been completed.

Of course the list could go on, but these are some basic signs we know if we experience them or not.

Today I’d like to focus on one point only: The importance of making time to be still. This I call “time to go on a retreat”.

What responses do you have in your body and mind when you read the following points Pico Iyer mentions in one of his talks.

  • We are crying out for the sense of intimacy and depth that we get from people when we take the time and travel to sit still.

  • In an age of distraction nothing can be more luxurious than paying attention.

  • In an age of constant movement, nothing can be more urgent than sitting still.

  • In an age of exhilaration nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow.

  • Catch the larger picture by stepping back from that screen that is your noisy life….. do some gentle neck movements like this beautiful fellow shows us.

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Once we experience more and more often that our physical health is in balance with our emotional and mental health, we know that our lifted awareness, our state of higher consciousness has to be followed by some actions in the world as otherwise it would be “raised consciousness” for nothing. After a period of sitting still, we feel the strong need, yes an urge to do something - yet to do something differently than before.
Health, and also yoga, are not separated from the world we live in. Once we have adopted a more conscious and possibly also slower lifestyle, we have realised that we changed some habits, changed some learnt behaviours as they don’t go well with “conscious living”.

Some surroundings can help us make that first shift that is needed to become still and then to get into the flow again with ease. The Tuscan landscape has something that sits solidly in a historic foundation, yet has something uplifting, refreshing as well as clearing and soothing - even little villages do have that effect on us. Finding stillness and energy in us and knowing how we can experience both at the same time is one of the objectives of the upcoming retreat in the Etruscan Tuscany.

Good health means also getting in touch with your body, your emotions and mind and knowing how you can move through life with fluidity, more ease and fun. Get inspired by a slower pace of life and see for yourself on the “Cleanse-Clear-Create” Retreat in May.

In the meantime you can do this practice as often as you give yourself five minutes in stillness.

Sitting with your eyes gently closed in a place you feel undisturbed and at peace, bring your awareness to your natural breath. Observe the natural flow of your breath without interfering with the length or the depth of your breath. As you breathe in feel the expansion in the body and an upward movement in the body and as you breathe out feel a sense of relaxation and a downward movement in the body. As you breathe in feel the movement from the navel to the throat and as you breathe out from the throat down to the navel. Try to keep your awareness on your breath. If thoughts want to distract you, you can mentally say to yourself as you breathe in “navel-throat” and as you breathe out “throat-navel”. Finish with a long breath in and a long relaxing breath out As you breathe out say to yourself mentally: “Let - ting - go”.