Present Moment Practice
As I was thinking about this week’s yoga practice and what I wanted to teach, the thought came to me about my introduction to yoga back in college in the late seventies and early eighties. I was a theater major and at the beginning of every acting class we practiced meditation and yoga to help us be in the present moment for our acting work.
Now, back then I loved acting but being in the moment was the least of my worries. I was much more concerned with parties and sorority pals and term papers and tests than any of that hippy dippy meditation and yoga stuff.
But I did like the yoga practice our professor insisted we do before we got started with class. I would find it easier and easier to drop into meditation and I loved the way I felt after a yoga flow. At the time, I didn’t appreciate the benefits of practicing for an aspiring actress, let alone for a college student. But my professor knew. He was preparing us for much more than stage or screen.
What is this present moment awareness thing anyway? Sometimes it’s easier to know something by what it isn’t so I present my case. I find myself all these many years after college still consumed with everything BUT the present moment. I make exhaustive lists for the week ahead. I let my mind wander while I am driving so that often I reach my destination not knowing how I got there. I can take care of seventeen things at once, not doing anything extremely well. And what’s worse, I can hold a conversation with a dear friend and not really be there for her, thinking about anything but the conversation we are having.
When I think of actors who are masters at present moment consciousness I think of Meryl Streep of course. Her performances are flawless as she embodies each character, seemingly stepping right into their skin. Watch how she relates to the other characters on screen. Every fiber of her body is right there with them in the scene. That is the definition of a “generous” actor. We hear that term used to describe someone who is truly present on stage or on the screen. They are rooted in the moment, they listen, they respond appropriately and it works! (And that’s why they win awards.)
But off stage and off screen, being in the present, for me, looks like someone who is confident, calm, compassionate, creative and clear-minded. (I realized I had four C’s there so I just went with it.) Think about people in whose presence you feel these things yourself when you are with them. Presence is contagious. Here are just some of the qualities I have come to associate with being in the present moment:
5. clear thinkers and communicators
Reminds me of the poses we practice on the yoga mat. You? We root as we stand in mountain pose, prepared for anything. We remain flexible as we flow through postures making shapes but not being attached to any sort of perfection. We practice balance poses like tree to remind the brain to help us in this regard in all aspects of our lives. We open our hearts in cobra and upward facing dog, showing the world our vulnerability as well as our great love. Inversions help us to see things in a different way, meditation brings us back to our center and the whole shebang contributes to our overall health and wellbeing, aka happiness. I could go on and on…
You don’t have to be an actor or a yogi to appreciate the many benefits of being in the present moment. But for me, as a new yoga teacher I feel more responsible than ever for finding this elusive present moment so that I can be authentic with my students. So I practice.