I woke this morning while it was still dark, 5:02am Friday, October 12 lit brightly on my iPhone screen. My first thought is whether or not the shelter is open.
We’re in the thick of rainy season here in Costa Rica and the past week has been relentless. Locals tell me that the flooding and water levels are higher than the past 25 years.
My family had a scheduled leave from our little village of Nosara for a couple of days, to cross a border and renew our visas. But the calamity was not ‘out of sight, out of mind’. I’d been carrying the stories and visuals of flood clean-up with me. I took them to bed with me last night, kept them alive in my head as I slept. The image of a small, colorful, plastic dump-truck hanging on the barbed wire fencing that grabbed it as the water rushed past had taken a particularly prevalent front-row seat in my mind. I imagined a little boy only days before happily playing with it in the dirt.
Knowing that yet again a red alert for rainfall and flooding had been issued yesterday, I wasn’t surprised to see Is the shelter open? Any reports? pop up on my phone. The message preview was all I needed to begin, automatically and with such detailed imagery, to write stories:
- Two men, clothed but wet, paddling in a small boat on the main road in our village.
- A young mom with a small baby on her hip, standing, worried faces, behind them the shell of a humble home surrounded by their wet belongings.
- A black dog with a red collar, wet fur, standing on what would be a familiar roadside once again when the water receded.
I felt the heaviness of the two men, the confusion of the mom and baby, the loneliness and hunger of the dog.
I became aspects of each of their stories — physically and emotionally — as I noticed my chest tighten slightly and my breathing become shallow. My blood pressure was reading my emotions with lightning speed and in real-time, engaging my stress response. In that moment, I became my thoughts.
Sometime around the 5th century, the ancient spiritual text, The Bhagavad Gita, was recorded. I’m often reminded of chapter 2, verse 48: Yogastha Kuru Karmani. My exploration of ancient wisdom translates this to: Establish yourself in the present moment and then perform action.
This verse might be the most powerful and yet least practiced superpower available to us in our modern-day, busy, autopilot lives.
You might be doing it right now.
Perhaps you are ruminating how an interaction went sideways at work yesterday. Maybe you’re worried about how your son or daughter is coping at school with grades, friendships, substances. Or, maybe your friend’s diagnosis seems frozen in your mind and informs the lens with which you see the fragility of your own life.
Stop. Right. Now.
Instead, establish yourself in the present moment — this very moment. Once you are here (pinch yourself if you need to check or simply settle into a gentle breath), then and only then, move forward.
Yogastha Kuru Karmani.
Your co-worker may have completely forgotten the conversation and even if they didn’t, you can’t control them. Your child may be exactly where they need to be to build resilience for the future. And remaining stuck in the worry about your friend isn’t helpful for her or good for your health.
Me? I can’t know that my little village in Costa Rica has flooded again. I can’t be sure if the black dog with the red collar, the two men, or the mama with her baby are displaced or struggling. These are all stories —fiction stories, maybe even best-sellers. These are thoughts that drastically impact my ability to show up in the world as the happy, inspiring, loving and radiant being I was meant to be.
This is how my practice begins. Perhaps you will join me?
- Establish yourself in the present moment (feel into the moment with a couple of breaths as you acknowledge the stories as stories and not truths)
- Hold that awareness as you move forward
- Come back and re-establish as the day unfolds and the stories emerge yet again (your emotions are your guide)
As I lay in bed and breathe this morning, I can find no evidence that the rains have flooded my tiny village once again. With gratitude, I move forward to spread love in this world knowing that if challenges arise, I will be able to step forward from a place of greater balance.
(if you could use a 15 second balance break right now, I recorded a sweet little video clip at the beach for you today. All you need to do is breathe out…. and then in…. gently as you watch [BeachBreakVideo].