Change is hard. If you don’t believe this…ask my Mom. Instead of embracing change or taking control of change, my Mom chooses to redirect her focus and ignore change. Subconsciously she is an expert in her field. When my Dad passed away tragically at the age of 53, just 2 months before the birth of his first grandchild, my Mother re-directed her entire physical and emotional being around the baby named in my Dad’s honor. That baby is now 5’11”, (1″ taller than his Grampa Mike, with aspirations to reach 6’4″ like his great Grandpa Smith) 16 years old and coming to the end of his 11th school year. Like me Michael is a procrastinator. Instead of embracing or controlling change in my life, I procrastinate.
Procrastinating is not a good feeling. Being productive is empowering…but even that is a double edged sword that can become all consuming until the truly important things fade into the background of routine life. It’s all about balance. I say that like I know what I’m talking about.
I’ve spent my Mexican holiday focusing on embracing change, empowering balance, and being present. I know, I know…the latest fashion phrases. I hear preaching of this new age thinking in so many different ways. We can talk about it until our throats are twisted and dry, but to actually live this way is difficult. Even the simple act of being present can be overwhelming and frustrating.
I spent a lot of time snorkeling this year and overcoming my unfounded anxiety of being underwater. This task was physically accomplished with a full face mask. I was able to feel in control by breathing through my nose or my mouth. When I had to adjust my seal, I didn’t watch the water creep up in front of my eyes like a car filling up with water as it sinks to the bottom of a watery grave. I will never go back to the old school masks again!
The act of working with the ocean current instead of fighting against it with my weak limbs was humbling and meditative. I had to watch the sea grass as it bent towards me in one solid pliable carpet and focus on inhaling one calm breath in…and letting it exhale as the grass moved away from me in the current…inhale, relax…exhale, kick, kick. When I got my timing right, the giant fins attached to my feet sent me floating effortlessly to the next mountain of coral waiting to be explored. I forgot to breath with the ocean when a giant eagle ray was flying around me. I yearned to keep pace with it and spread my wings as if in mirror image of the grace and majesty of this foreign creature. The invisibility of my awkward presence with the green sea turtle as he foraged through the sand and grass was surreal. How do you be emotionally present in such a moment of purity? As the group moved off, I worked to get my weak brain wrapped quickly around the words “endangered”, “wild”, “real”…and before I could truly be present…it was time to look for that next moment.
We looked into the rock caves to find giant lobsters, black eels with white markings, porcupine fish rocking against the sand in perfect ocean rhythm, rock hinds chasing grunts out of their space, and trumpets with tails pointed towards the sun and noses at the coral. Giant permit fish flashing silver in their small groups like huge silver dollars being shadowed by cleaner gobies and blue tangs. Giant nurse sharks were hiding under coral outcroppings with only their tails visible. Sea anemones that looked like underwater mushrooms with bulbous waving tips of purple and shafts of green or pink. There was so much to see that our group just kept kicking so we didn’t miss a single thing. Always looking for the next creature waiting to be discovered…exhale, kick, kick. Never being present for longer than the “inhale, relax”.
My favorite were the cuddlefish. Their plump little bodies in groups of 2 or 3 waving their fins around them like ribbons in the wind. Their large kind eyes looking up as they turned their tentacles towards me, the intruder, and flashed their warning iridescent colors from brown to blue to green in multiple patterns and symphonies. They prepared themselves to open their beaks and push themselves away from the threat in my solid bright colors and course gurgling noises. This is where I could find a true feeling of being in the moment, a real outer body calmness of being one with the ocean and focusing on nothing but the breath of the water embracing me. I was aware of the cool water on my calves and the warm water around my floating fingertips. I saw the sun rays filter and dance through the surface movement to land on the patterned sand. I could hear my breathing. My mind was clear. The true definition of meditating. Inhale, relax…exhale, relax…without words.
Within seconds an anxiety wrapped it’s claws around my chest and I forced my gaze to my leader who I could just make out past the point where the water gets murky. I said a silent thank-you to the cuttlefish vanishing from view as I “inhale…kick,kick…”fighting the current, “exhale…kick,kick…” to find my safety in numbers.
In my dog training experience, I teach a well known method called shaping. Shaping is a way of teaching a complex behavior in small steps. There is a delicate balance to each step…wait too long and the end goal is lost, move too fast and the goal is unreachable. What I learned during my “inhale, relax”, is to embrace the success of being present in that small window of time and know that it is only one step towards being truly present in my life.
I focused on being in the moment during my holiday. The enlightening thing about this quest was that time moved slowly. I could take in the sun and really absorb it into my soul. Life balance didn’t seem so hard to hold onto. Taking the sun into my soul didn’t become something that I couldn’t get enough of. The appreciation of that moment stayed with me, because it was real. This was the first year I did not take the beach (a jar of sand) home with me. I did not worry about the future without the beach because it was within me.
I was surprised at how looking to the next moment sped up time so that I missed the things in front of me. This is where anxiety sits, waiting, and stewing to take away my breath. The future robs me of my present. My first son begins the final step in his high school journey this year. We must look into the future and help him plan, despite my anxiety. I will focus on being present so this next year with him lasts forever.
Change is coming. We cannot stop it. We cannot control it. We cannot re-direct it. We cannot block it. We can be prepared and fight the anxiety of the future with mindful meditation in every moment. Fight change with focus, love and being present. Being present in the way the honey draws circles as it falls onto my spoon or the way my finger follows the fur up the forehead of my pup. Being wholly present in hugging my towering son, watching him eat, stuffing his hands in his pockets, covering his hair with a hood, or listening to his adult voice say things that I heard when he was little. Being present in my family so I am never without them. This is how I control change.