Stop and Smell the Roses

I searched everywhere for my favorite reading glasses one day, finally settling on an older pair tucked away in a drawer. Studiously researching information for a novel I was writing, I looked up to see a family member smiling at me from the doorway of my office.

“Why are you wearing two pairs of glasses?” they asked. The lost pair of glasses sat atop my head. I hadn’t noticed they were there.

I was so busy thinking about the work I needed to do, the laundry waiting in the wash to be transferred to the dryer, the phone call I’d received, the appointment I had the next day and on and on, that I completely missed the sensation of a pair of glasses sitting on my head.

Mindless. I was mindless, on autopilot – doing one thing, thinking of another.

How often do we all do this? Walking into a room, forgetting why we entered. Wondering if the iron was turned off when we left the house. In the extreme, people forgetting their pet or child in the backseat of the car.

What made this inconsequential moment of mindlessness striking for me? I teach meditation. Mindfulness, centering, connecting with the breath are all part of the lessons I share with others.

We are all, inconveniently sometimes, human. We are all also, inconveniently sometimes, bombarded by external stimuli. Computers, social media, the noise of a city, the sounds of the gossip of the neighbors, caught up in the past, worrying about the future, dwelling often in a place of fear in the chaos that the world has become.

I have discovered that fear is just false evidence appearing real. Most of what we fear never happens. Life delivers other challenges that we may never have expected. We spend enormous amounts of energy in the past, in the future, those places that don’t exist in the now.

How do we break this cycle? Be here now and breathe. Breath focus helps you concentrate on slow, deep breathing and aids you in separating from distracting thoughts and sensations.

As I have taught my meditation students, take five minutes and focus. Focus on where you are. In the shower? Focus on the sensations of the water hitting your body, breathing and being in the moment. Outside, as the saying goes, stop and smell the roses. Listen for the songs of the birds, or the whispers of the wind. As thoughts come in, acknowledge them, and let them go.

If you’re stuck in traffic, rather than yelling at the car in front of you while concurrently listening to the latest chatter on the Sirius news station, take a breath. Breathe deeply from the diaphragm. Let go, if only for a moment. Turn off the news and just be.

There is a balance to be found in life, of being lost in the mind and thoughts at times and breathing and connecting to a deeper wisdom at others. It is a process for all, even those of us whose world includes teaching others, and along the way finding our own enlightenment.

Though I still do forget on occasion why I entered a room, I can confirm that at this writing, I have not worn two pairs of reading glasses at the same time again.

Remember to breathe.

susan schirl smith
Susan Schirl Smith is a writer, photographer and holistic nurse based in New Hampshire. Her essays have been published in Cognoscenti, Pangyrus, Silver Birch Press and The Journal of Holistic Nursing. Her photography has been featured in Barren Magazine and L’Ephemere Review. Smith’s current manuscript is Desperado, a memoir of her brother. You can follow Susan on her website or Facebook.

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