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How stopping and smelling the roses in the present moment keeps you on a path to the future

By Scott Johnson

Taking a moment to imagine…

Before reading any further, close your eyes and imagine if any part of your life had been different. Any part of your life at all. If at any moment a certain point that felt meaningful had gone a different way. Think of concrete examples. If you had chosen being too self conscious instead of travelling. If you had gone to Mysore. If you hadn’t gone to Mysore. If you had said no instead of yes. If you had said yes instead of no. If you had never stepped foot on a yoga mat. But, once considered, ask yourself the questions: Where would you be now? What would you be thinking? What would you be feeling? How would you be seeing the world? Go on, take a moment to consider this before you read on…

Skilfully reflecting

We know these questions are all hypothetical, right? But they are questions I feel it good for us to reflect on. You see, reflection lands us in the present moment and helps us to see where we are right now. To see where we’ve got to. Where our past decisions have brought us to. So, what thoughts are arising right now when I consider these questions? What feelings arise as a response? Are there emotions too that come up? We are learning to notice what thoughts, feelings and emotions have brought us to this present moment.

For those of you who are a yoga or mindfulness practitioner, this is very much part of a sadhana or spiritual practice. Yoga and mindfulness practice is about skilfully reflecting all these things in the present moment and knowing that by noticing these things we are establishing a root towards how our future plays out.

Smelling the roses

I notice in myself a constant movement between what is past and what is to come. This is because, of course, I am a product of my past moments. For example, the main personal decisions I have made in my life have culminated in me becoming a father, a husband and a yoga teacher. It wasn’t always like this, but it’s my reality now. There are other self proclaimed roles that all play a certain part and have meaning, but these are the ones that I feel define me.

However, If I think of them too much as roles then I can get caught up in what they are meant to be or the role I am meant to play. This can be defined by the culture and society I play them in. This can then perhaps define what I feel I have to be and the meaning by which I judge myself against others. If I look at these personal roles they are all about me relating to others. Seeing how other people and myself are responding to each other through this thing called life. If I stop and reflect, using the skills I have nurtured through my ongoing spiritual practices, I can experience them as they play out in my life. I can use the experience of the role to see how far I’ve come as I continue to play it. For me this is important. That I am constantly evaluating how I relate to others based on where I find myself.

In my life I can push hard for things to happen. I am really eager but I need to notice to what effect. Smelling the roses, remembering what’s brought me to this moment, helps me to understand a healthier way to move forward with consideration.

Meeting practice with clarity

When it comes to my role as a yoga teacher, I’ve had many practitioners come to me with issues surrounding where they are stuck in their personal yoga practice and problems that they face as practice continues. These issues could be physical, mental or emotional. They are all in some way how the practice is responding to their lives or where they are moving in the world.

What we often do is look at the practice as a microcosm, seeing how we’ve developed just as yoga practitioners. What we perhaps forget to notice is how the practice has developed us as people. We can look at the difficulties we face in life and perhaps see how we would face them without a yoga practice. Can we see how our practice is working on us?

For me, a yoga practice is about refining my observation. My own observation of myself. Rather than noticing where I am stuck, perhaps I can stop and see just how far I’ve come to be able to notice I’m stuck. To notice this actual time of reflection. I see this way of being caught as a very common thread in many people. I see it in myself too.

As a yoga practitioner, can I also observe all the moments of practice that have got me here and use that as the gatekeeper of the moments yet to come? I ask many people to contemplate this. To actually see how far they have come. Nearly always I receive a wry, knowing little smile.

Collecting our past present moments

It’s this juxtaposition of noticing the past that has brought me to this moment, and this moment being the place that takes me to my future that allows me to become present. It’s simple to say it, but my present is made up of all my past present moments. Observing my breath and body in awareness, whether through asana practice or meditation, really allows for me to hone the sensitivity to become present.

Remembering that yoga can be a way to unlock your own unique human nature, creating the ability to listen anew to things that may be uncomfortable, is a powerful reminder of the strength and potential of a long-term yoga practice. With all the imagery of incredible yoga prowess and yoga rhetoric that gets posted online, especially on social media, reminding ourselves that the practice is here to really move us, to shift our awareness to a more present relational nature, is so very important.

There’s so much we look forward to, so much we regret, so much that we hope may happen and so much that we are scared may happen. But we continue to practise yoga and in yoga practice we can forget how far we’ve come. A gentle reminder is key, always.

So, to actually come to this moment and notice how far we’ve come since we started a yoga practice, can be a significant way to waking up to what is yet to be…

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