on finding presence

i think i just figured out what it means to “be present” and how to actually do it in real life. literally figured it out fifteen minutes ago while walking in the park. it’s too good not to share. so let me share: be. present.

easy, right? nah. but let’s discuss.

one of the first times i felt true presence was during a bikram practice. holding a back bend in one hundred plus degree heat and ninety percent humidity leaves no room for the nagging thoughts that usually accompany a group exercise workout. at least for me, those thoughts include do i look like i know what i’m doing? how dumb do i look right now? her outfit is cuter than mine. ohemgee, is that person looking at me? they’re probably thinking, ‘what is this fatty doing here?’ sarah, stop calling yourself fat! well damn, now i feel guilty about that. ugh. ad nauseam. however, during bikram, the only thought is of survival. and maybe eventually form. but mostly the survival of ninety minutes of intense physical exertion. i wanted to cry after my first class from the deep relief of plowing through that battle. it was huge. and nothing else was on my mind.

knowing that i was capable of sole focus in at least one area of my life, i began to try and find it during my regular yoga practice and during other types of physical activity as well. why exercise? why not art or cooking or something? for me, those activities are mental playgrounds for buzzing bee thoughts. they are when i do my best thinking/worrying/praying/what-have-you. but exercise, maybe because it’s pretty hard for me, takes all of me. and as it turns out, i naturally focused my mind on breathing or rep-counting but just becoming aware of that state and setting an intention to really enjoy it during exercise was a huge step. awareness, really, that presence is possible and that i do it kind of naturally during certain activities was huge. but only today did i find it in my real life – ie. the life i spend in public, not covered in sweat or wearing spandex. y’know, that life.

it turns out, staying present really is just experiencing what is happening right now. feeling your fingers and toes and the ambient temperature and the breeze if there is one and just letting yourself be a part of that. today i was sitting in the park during lunch. i’m really lucky to work in an office across from a beautiful park and that our office culture allows for and encourages taking a break. i have a favorite bench under a big oak tree that overlooks an old ball field. i sat on the bench today and my monkey mind was all over the place. turning over problems and spinning down rabbit trails, my inner voice had the sense to stop and say sarah, you should try and be quiet for a minute and organize your thoughts. hmmm. good idea. thanks, self! 

the view from my bench

the view from my bench

looking up, i noticed big storm clouds above the tree line doing that thing where clouds bloom like fast-growing cauliflower. i love that thing. it felt like the universe was giving me a nudge of encouragement to go on and get to work. kind of like a nod that i’m really not alone in anything because i’m a part of the universe. and ultimately, anything i’m going through, no matter how huge, is not everything that is in the world. after surveying the field in front of me, i saw that there was only one person, a man, running laps around the park. being relatively alone, i figured i’d go ahead and talk it out out-loud. sometimes having a conversation with yourself is surprisingly helpful, especially for organization. i find you can think a dozen words at once but you can only say one. it forces you to prioritize, form sentences and communicate. some people might call this conversation with yourself and the universe a prayer and that’s fine. but i don’t want that to discourage those who don’t see the world the way i do. so let’s call it a conversation.

i talked with myself for a good ten minutes, judging by the running man’s completion of five laps, and by the end of the conversation i felt a lot better. no real conclusions other than to keep myself open to the experiences coming my way and an ask of the universe to help me stay aware, present and humble. as i left the park, i set an intention for my walk home. i’m big on intentions right now – the act of deciding what the next experience, walk, conversation, meal, workout, etc. will contain or how it will go or what you’ll do during that time. it keeps you focused. it keeps you… present.

my intention for the walk back to the office was to notice all the things i’m thankful for and that i love about that park. it was almost too easy to rattle off things as i passed by the kissing tree or a funny blue bird or the school minnows in the stream. but it was great and i came back to the office with a smile and a realization. that whole walk, all that i thought about was right in front of me as i was experiencing it. presence and sole focus in my real life!

love always, sarah

 

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this smoothie will give you superpowers*

*disclaimer: that’s a lie

my smoothie game is on point right now. like, so on point i’d consider living off of the frothy, fruity blends i’ve been whipping up for breakfast (and sometimes lunch) these days. but you know what they say about too much of a good thing… oh, you don’t? well google it.

now let me tell you about my superpower smoothie: it starts a few hours before intended consumption, typically the night before, when a heavy dose of chia seeds are submerged in coconut water for activation. in the morning, the plumped seeds and water meet three or four glugs of kefir in the blender. a few strawberries join the party along with their date, frozen pineapple, and a half-scoop of vanilla protein powder. the party really get’s going when the blender whizzes everyone into harmony and it hits it’s high notes as the foamy mix fills a glass. all i can say is, “um, yum.”

what makes this smoothie special:

chiaimgres -chia is a superfood. or super-seed. ancient aztec super marathon runners carried the nutrient packed nugs in their loin cloths for roadside sustenance. they’re also full of fiber, hella filling (because the grow when soaked in liquid), and full of amino acids and things like phosphorous. basically, they are just really great for you. i buy mine from trader joe’s in a pinch but you can also find them surprisingly cheap at TJ Maxx/Homegoods or on amazon.

 

 

imagescoconut water – i fell in love with coconut water when i started bikram yoga. the electrolyte-rich liquid tapped from the center of coconuts is so powerful that it has been used on battlefields to revive soldiers. think of it as nature’s gatorade. without the chemicals, added sugar or artificial colors. it’s also a killer pre-workout drink. pro tip: drink this an hour before bikram; it will totally change your practice. promise. i typically get this from trader joe’s because i’m there already and it’s a reliable source. ideally, i’d have a field of coconuts to drink from but that’s not my real life. yet.

 

imgres-2kefir – um, i’m obsessed. like, where was i two years ago when i heard someone talk about this? i was probably put off by the idea of fermented milk and thinking i got enough probiotics from yogurt. news flash: you don’t. kefir is the cat’s pajamas. think of it like milk soda. seriously, it’s like effervescent yogurt you can drink. it’s actually bubbly. and delightfully tart. the history behind kefir is really cool too. i’m still looking for good kefir grains around me so i can make my own, so right now i’m using the plain version from trader joe’s. i’m concerned that some of the great probiotics have been killed off from pasteurization but it will do for now. side note: i don’t recommend the flavored kefir from tj’s because it has a lot of sugar (21g per serving). nobody needs that. just add a little honey and you’re golden.

imgres-3protein – i added this to the smoothie the third time i made as kind of an after thought – i basically have a lot of vanilla protein that i want to burn through so i can break into my chocolate! but protein powder is important if you choose to use it here. be careful about what type of protein powder you put in your body. i really recommend vegan protein. i use vega one and sunwarrior classic vanilla. i personally find protein really sweet, so it’s my sweetener here. you can always add your sweetener of choice in lieu of the protein route – i’d recommend honey because it’s yummy with the tart kefir and the summery strawberries.

Superpower Smoothie – serves 1

  • 3/4 c coconut water
  • 1-2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 c plain kefir
  • 5 strawberries, quartered
  • 1/2 c frozen pineapple
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder (optional)

mix chia and coconut water at least two hours before you plan on making the smoothie. i mix it the night before in the cup that i plan on drinking the smoothie out of (can you say, less dishes? yes, please).

add the plumped chia seeds and coconut water to a blender. combine the remaining ingredients.

blend. pour. sip. sigh.

other combos i’m planning to try: chocolate protein+almond butter, blackberry+lemon+cherry, strawberry+lime.

if you know where a girl can get quality kefir grains, please let me know in the comments!

love always, sarah.

 

mushroom purple – writing 101, day eleven

before i start, i feel i should apologize to myself and to my little bit of web space for epically failing at building a blogging habit. so i’m sorry, self. but i refuse to give up on you. now that that’s done, let’s get back to prompt at hand: the home i lived in when i was twelve.

in a suburb of a suburb, down a side road, off a side street is the house my mother still lives in that saw my progress from five to eighteen years of age. it was just left of center of the block of time i spent there that i turned twelve. was it that year we painted my room purple? i called the color mushroom purple but a more common way to describe the tone is probably purple-greige. it’s still one of my favorite colors and i hope to slather new walls with it one day.

my room had an alcove in it where my old dog used to lay on the back of my pink chair and catch the sun. i never used the alcove. except for one day when i watched an episode of MTV true life or real world or one of those ridiculous shows. two girls were going to an nsync concert (it was 2002, mind you) and they painted giant pictures of the band members with rubber cement and pasted them to their car. “it’s totally removable,” they said. and i totally believed them.

three hours and a handful of magazines later, i’d collaged an entire wall of the alcove with sayings, pop icons, art prints and whatever else my little heart desired.

it took two years for my mom to discover my work of art. “it’s totally removable,” i said.

it totally wasn’t.

love always, sarah.