It was a typical Monday night. Having just finished my work day, I was preparing dinner, the dog was scurrying at my ankles, homework was being attempted at the kitchen counter, and my phone was humming with countless texts from my teenagers looking for rides home from practice. I tuned in to that familiar feeling of chaos that would inevitably settle into overwhelm. As the garlic on the stove began to burn, my daughter yelled for the third time, “MOM, I need your help!!” Without even taking a breath, I scolded back, “Don’t yell at me!”
Ironic, I thought to myself.
That was my first moment of presence of the night. I nodded to myself and took a long deep breath.
Ah. Ok. I turned off the stove, looked at my daughter and replied, “I can’t help you now, I’m making dinner. You can ask someone else, google the answer or wait until after dinner.” She wasn’t happy with any of those choices. However, she reluctantly moved on as I turned the stove back on to prepare dinner.
This is not unlike most moments in my life with three kids, a career, a relationship and a house to manage.
Life is busy and full for most of us, and our minds and bodies reflect just that in each and every moment.
I’ve learned valuable lessons over the years about leading a household and business while navigating this crazy chaotic life.
Regardless of which hat I have on, what I’ve learned is this:
What is going on around you is not nearly as interesting as where you are in relationship to it. Knowing where you are, or being present in any given moment is key to your success.
Presence is like a compass. It is always pointing you in the right direction. Your job is to simply pay attention and follow its lead.
Presence, often cultivated by a daily mindfulness practice, can reliably be found in your body - not in your mind. If you THINK you are present, you likely are not! Thinking is not part of the equation. Being cannot be thought, only felt.
Presence is simply the experience of being aware in the now moment to all that is occurring, without judging it.
When practicing presence, we use our body to guide us to what is here now.
So in the moments while preparing dinner, managing incoming emails, texts, homework and pets, I was in overwhelm. How did I know? When so much is going on it is often difficult to locate ourselves. When I noticed myself lashing out I recognized the need to pause for just a moment.
So I paused.
I took a deep breath.
Then I took a quick inventory of my body and checked in with myself.
It was then that I noticed the butterflies in my belly, the tension in my neck and shoulders, and the fast pace of my heartbeat. My body and mind were both running a stress marathon. From that state of anxiety, I was more likely to be reactive, short tempered and impatient.
That makes perfect sense given my biology.
“The stress response is a normal adaptive coping response that evolved over hundreds of millions of years to help our ancestors avoid sticks and get carrots,” says Rick Hanson, PhD.
My nervous system was on overdrive and sending all sorts of crazy messages to my brain. Adrenaline was running high. Truthfully I didn’t stand a chance at remaining calm and composed in that moment.
Until I chose to pause, breathe and take notice of what my body was telling me.
It wasn’t until I tuned in and truly listened, that I could see clearly.
And it was from that place of presence that I consciously chose how to move forward.
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