A year ago I was sitting in my therapist’s office with my wife. We rarely met together but he wanted to see how the two of us were doing. I was a hot mess mentally and emotionally. I never did discover why. All I knew was in that moment, sitting in his office I could not sit still as my legs were bouncing. I wanted to jump out of his window and run away (he was on the first floor). I felt like my chest was going to collapse and the world was falling on top of me! I was extremely tense and did not want to be there. He asked if I would like to go for a walk and try to collect myself first. I was happy to accept and quickly left.I walked about two blocks in a circle from his office. I focused on my breathing to bring it down to normal. I then tried to just clear my mind as it was going a thousand miles an hour in every direction. I finally felt the edge of being calm as it would slip away from me easily if I didn’t focus my thoughts. By the time I made it back to his office I felt mostly normal again and we had a productive meeting.
In the next two or three meetings (I met once a month at the time) he introduced me to the concept of learning to clear my head of all the things going on and focusing on just being present. I remember when he introduced me to the concept that I had a slight panic attack because I was worried I would lose track of all of the things I had to do. (As a side note, I’m an “Achiever” — I love to do lists and I love to get things done. Sounds good and normally it is, but it can go too far and become overwhelming and debilitating as the lists become insurmountable, I struggle to say no, and don’t know when to stop.) He instructed me to simply go for a twenty minute walk every day and just focus on the color of the leaves or on the sounds around me or the smells in the air or the wind on my arms or in my hair. This was very meta-weird to me and I recall freaking out in his chair trying to think of when on earth I would be able to find twenty minutes every day to just “WALK”. Was he crazy?!
I grudgingly accepted his challenge and within a few months of practicing I was finally able to just go for a walk and let everything else go from my mind at the time. I eventually was able to look at the colors of the plants, or the way the flowers smelled, or listen to the river near our office. It was hard at first but it became easier. I now realize that not only did it help me with my addiction recovery it also helped with my stress and hopefully it will contribute to me living longer and healthier.
Finally, I wanted to share with you that learning to “Be Present” had an extra benefit. A few months ago, when I spoke with him about learning to stop objectifying women, his recommendation was to focus on “being present” when I am in a situation where I’m struggling to see a woman as a person instead of as an object. Because of my practice on being present in the past, I have found that I can now easily think to myself “Be Present” and it actually has an effect on my mind, what I’m thinking about, what I focus on, and it gives me power to be able to control the situation to be more to the ideal I’m striving for.
If you struggle to control your thoughts, to focus, or to simply slow down a bit you might want to try to “Be Present” more often. Try a twenty minute walk each day. Don’t read, don’t listen to music or a podcast. Just be present to your surroundings. Go slow and work up to being able to truly let go and be more aware. It definitely helped me once I learned how. And if it’s got you all tied up in knots even thinking about — well, you’re probably a bit like me and should go ahead and try it anyway 🙂
My name is Mike