Moments of Flow: Finding Presence and Purpose Every Day
As I was driving home one recent evening, I felt this sudden surge of flow and lightness --a sense of joy I feel in those moments when I'm doing (or even thinking about) my soul work or just simply enjoying presence. It was an overwhelming swell of gratitude in that very moment. I had been so caught up in mind chatter and events of the day, and it was as if suddenly a switch flipped. I allowed myself to take a deep breath and be still. There is so much to be thankful for. It was a moment of pause in the perceived chaos, a moment of presence. These moments are what we need to savor, what we need to cultivate more of in our everyday lives. Presence is always within reach, it's always there.
Many of us can get stuck in patterns or situations that go against the grain of our greatest good --and, often times, without even realizing it. We get caught up in what we think we should be doing, or what we believe society, family, or whomever expects of us. We burden ourselves with a sense of responsibility or obligation, leading to increased anxiety and self-pressure. We're hypercritical of how we look, what we do. Our 24/7 news cycle and social media are of no help either. We allow life-things to snowball and overwhelm us. We can't see the forest for the trees. We find ourselves focusing on the petty, and what's of little importance in the grand scheme quickly becomes too consuming. We don't give ourselves enough breathing room. Enough space. And, most importantly, enough love. That intimacy with self is so important.
We constantly venture outside of ourselves, rather than going inside and digging deeper. In Jon Kabat-Zinn's book, Wherever You Go, There You Are, he talks about this. He talks about how we often seek things outside of ourselves, rather than creating space for inner exploration and truly realizing that what we need is within us.
I love this passage from his book, within the chapter titled "Going Inside:"
Dwelling in stillness and looking inward for some part of each day, we touch what is most real and reliable in ourselves and most easily overlooked and undeveloped. When we can be centered in ourselves, even for brief periods of time in the face of the pull of the outer world, not having to look elsewhere for something to fill us up or make us happy, we can be at home wherever we find ourselves, at peace with things as they are, moment by moment.
As I've worked through my own "stuff" and especially as I dove deeper into my yoga studies and self work, I've thought about this a lot. Look, I'd be lying if I said I don't get caught in the chaos, or that I don't find myself in patterns of "busyness" or what have you. Honestly, I get overwhelmed at times. I could sit here and provide a list of all those "things" going on in life past, present, and future, but, really, we are all dealing with that in some way or another. We ALL have our stuff. And, quite frankly, our work is never done; we must constantly unpack and examine.
There are moments when we catch ourselves in patterns --patterns like "busy-ness" or making excuses or feeling stuck or whatever it maybe. It is often in pivotal life moments, in the face of illness or life or death or loss, where we pause, reflect, and realize what's truly important (or, alternatively, we may just plummet further into the chaos). We can allow the chaos to surround us, but find our center, our peace within. This is where the practices of yoga, meditation and mindfulness can lend a helping hand.
I've thought about my own patterns...what's the cycle that I always get "stuck" in? Why is that? I've looked at why I am who I am today; what has shaped me? I have even thought a lot about Natascha the child. Who was I? Is that who I truly am? Have I gotten away from the core of who I really am? What is my purpose? Am I seeing the lessons that are nudging me back to my truth? When do I feel most alive, most free, most fulfilled? Am I looking at the bigger picture? Am I finding grace and gratitude? Am I present? The list could go on...And the work of self-examination and self-exploration can be hard. It's hard to face ourselves at times, peeling the layers to reveal the core. There may even be experiences we shut out or are holding onto that are holding us back.
When life gets heavy, it isn't uncommon to look toward simpler ways, longing for those "easy" times. Those times when we felt like we hadn't a care in the world. A sigh of relief. All too often, we lose sight of that. What's so wrong with being child-like, creative, curious and open? What's so wrong with simplifying? What's so wrong with pausing? What's so wrong with being present?
As I've examined my own journey, I've come to truly see, appreciate and understand every peak and valley along the way as an important part of my path. In the thick of it, I may have been in survival mode or overwhelmed or paralyzed. But I made it through. I learned to listen. I learned to be open. I learned to find the lesson, the gift, in each experience. If it weren't for those experiences, I wouldn't be where I'm at today. I wouldn't know my purpose, what I'm meant to do in this lifetime. It took a lot of work to get here, but I've learned to observe and listen.
While I could delve into the little "nudges" along the way that led me toward the path of being a yoga teacher and deciding to open a yoga studio, I have to say that one of the most pivotal moments for me came when my father was abruptly diagnosed with Acute Myloid Leukemia in December 2014. At that time, I had already opened my yoga studio, Udana (March 2014). In July 2014, we lost my father-in-law to cancer and then this. I had already dealt with so much death and major transitions over the last several years. Yet, it was all of that that led me to further my yoga studies and to pursue work as an end-of-life doula. It all led me to exactly where I am today, with an absolute passion to help people live more fully through the practices of yoga and holistic wellness.
When I began my studies in yoga therapy, it was the first time that I felt like I was doing true "self work" with self study (svadhyaya). Bit by bit, I began facing my samskaras (patterns) and karma, the work I must do in my lifetime. I began to see my life path, that this purpose was there all along, and how various events throughout my journey either swayed me from or brought me back to this path. While I've had moments of self doubt or find myself challenged with the "stuff" I have to work through, it is precisely the work I must do and the beauty is that I recognize that. I recognize that this isn't easy, but I know I'm in the flow and moving in the right direction. It's as if I'm dusting off and polishing a beautiful sculpture that has been neglected over time, caked with the baggage of trauma, fear, perceived expectation, and doubt.
Into my early 30s, I found myself doing much soul searching and working through things I needed to address for myself. It wasn't until more recently that I finally felt like I found my footing in the way I've always needed to. I'm realizing the lessons along the way, appreciating the journey.
And here, with this self-work, is where I began to discover an even deeper sense of flow, and the awareness to recognize those beautiful moments of flow: feeling presence and purpose in everyday moments. What's interesting is the fact that, at least in my experience, we can often recognize in those precious moments with heightened awareness when we're going against the flow. I see that some of the challenges I have encountered throughout my career or personal life, were really my soul's way of telling me I have more work to do or I was veering from my path. Those are times when I haven't felt truly and completely "in sync," or when I am repeating behaviors that get me right back into habitual patterns. With self awareness, we can recognize the lessons that are available to us in every moment. It's a never-ending practice and, yes, it is work.
It is through this birds-eye sharing of my path that I hope to help you see that life experiences shape us in different ways and that things aren't always easy. We all have challenges. We all have those begging for mercy moments. Sometimes we find ourselves just trying to keep our heads above water or seeking the light at the end of the tunnel. We get hyper focused on the distractions. We lead ourselves astray.
I encourage you to take pause. Pause and be present. Find purpose and joy in everyday moments. And, yes, roll up your sleeves and do the work. Dig deeper. Go inside.
Self work is like tending to a garden: you must tend to it constantly to help it nourish and grow. There will always be weeds to manage, and they serve their purpose too. We can easily get stuck in our old patterns and repeat the same stories. The work of yoga enables us to recognize this, catch ourselves, and do the practices that help us find our flow again. Yoga is a way of living. We are constantly in a flow of ups and downs in life, and the practice of yoga is really about being in a balanced place to ride those waves, and witness the human experience without being attached to it.
As humans, it's in our nature to get attached to things --attached to the past, responsibilities, accomplishments, excuses, drama, etc. (often without realizing it). We cast limiting beliefs upon ourselves all the time. Truly, you are capable of so much. You have infinite potential. When you believe, when you have the right mindset, when you are open, the possibilities are endless. You soon realize that you're the only one holding yourself back. You constantly have to work at breaking down those limiting beliefs. It's in those moments of true connection, of flow, of presence, that we gain reassurance on our path. Where we find joy and purpose.
For me, that sense of presence and purpose often comes when I'm teaching a yoga class. It can sometimes be an out-of-body experience of sorts for me. I find myself in this flow, as if I'm observing myself teaching. Before a class, I could be caught in the events of the day, but that all changes when I step on the mat --whether in my own practice, or in leading others through a practice. I feel it too at the close of a practice, on my drive home. It's a level of fulfillment and contentment that is hard for me to put into words.
In a couple recent classes, we've gone around the room doing introductions and learning why participants have chosen to come. As I listened to each person's response , I felt so moved by the power of yoga. People are seeking, looking for tools to deal with stress, anxiety, depression, physical ailments, and more. Looking for ways to find peace and presence in the chaos. Looking to live better. I was touched by the vulnerability and openness, incredibly grateful to create a safe space for sharing in community. There again I felt that flow, that joy of presence and purpose.
I also find that a regular personal yoga practice and meditation practice helps me connect with that sense of flow, and be more present. My meditation practice, in particular, has had a profound impact. I notice a marked difference if I fall away from my practice. The chaos becomes louder.
And, so, one of our greatest challenges is to create space and self care practices that help us connect with, recognize, and relish those moments of flow. Our moments of flow are more than just feeling purpose. They're about finding joy in the littlest of things. Perhaps it's connecting with your playfulness, your creativity, your curiosity. It's that ability to live in the present moment. It's the practice of gratitude. That, that is where we find flow. Presence.
Ask yourself: When are those times when you feel that flutter of joy in your belly, that expansion in your heart? Those moments when you feel light and carefree, those moments when you feel like you're doing exactly what you should be in that moment? Or, those moments when you feel alive? When do you feel most present?
Perhaps these are moments spent with loved ones, simply enjoying each other's company. Moments outdoors enjoying the splendor of nature. Moments wrapped up in doing something you absolutely love. Moments when uncontrollable laughter brings the best sort of tears and belly aches. Moments of solitude and quiet reflection. Moments that are easily plowed over by busyness or other "important" concerns.
We most definitely get distracted along the way. For me, yoga has not only been my purpose, but also a valuable tool. Yoga is life-changing. I absolutely love sharing the practices of yoga with others because I see how it can truly change lives, just as it has changed my own. And, it isn't the physical (asana) practice of yoga that has transformed me; sure, it has its place, but it's really been the self-study, the peeling back of layers, the digging deep. The practice of asana and meditation are just some of the resources in the toolbox that have helped along the way.
Rod Stryker, a well-known yoga teacher whom I respect highly, has said, "Yoga is a way of attaining a quality of being and being able to stay there...it's a kind of state where one is separated from the ups and downs of life. Yoga is way of seeing the world, it's about perception...it's about seeing the invisible, and living with it while you are in the visible."
So, as you continue on with your day, think about this. Think about how you perceive the world. Find those moments of flow in your everyday. Those moments of flow may be found in self study or when we feel presence or purpose. We can witness that flow in recognizing our connection to everything. When we walk in nature and take in the movement of the clouds, the smells in the air, the birds chirping, the sensation of sun-kissed skin. Moment by moment. Flow is there. Flow is within reach. When we relish these littlest moments of flow, we realize the greater connection to the ultimate flow. There is where we find peace, where we can just simply exist and be. Ride the waves. Relish the joy of existence. Feel the freedom you already have. And breathe. You're worth it.