The Gift of Being Present

Being present is more complicated than it seems. Thoughts about work or any number of things can get noisy, even during downtime.

When I sit down on my yoga mat, my mind doesn’t automatically clear. It goes something like this:

I need ____ at the grocery store.
I should check in with  ____.

What if ____ happens?

Eventually, I remember to return my focus to the breath, and to be in the present moment.

Earlier this month, I camped with my family along the Little Pigeon River, near the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. Our tents were about 15 feet away from the fast-moving water.

The sound — therapeutic.
The cool water — refreshing.
The time away — truly needed.

It was an opportunity to simply be.

We cooked meals in a cast-iron dutch oven by campfire each night. On one particular evening, I began worrying about timing the meal before dark, and about getting all food supplies back to the truck due to bears.

Then, the water caught my attention. Whoosh.

The sound returned loudly, like raising the volume on a TV.

My constant reminder to be in the moment was there all along, but my thoughts had become louder than the water.

It isn’t practical to never think about the past or future. (Would anything get done that way?!)

Still, carving out a moment or two each day to return to the present moment — even if just stepping away from a heated conversation to take five breaths — can restore peace during an otherwise hectic day.


Making Time for Yoga

Think about how you feel after taking a yoga class. That feeling can sometimes last for hours or days.

It isn’t always possible to make it to your favorite weekly class, but you can make time for a bit of yoga every day. It’s easier than it sounds.

Hint: You don’t need to spend an hour or more on the mat for it to “count.”

Here are a few ideas to incorporate yoga into daily life:

  • In the morning: Wake up with a few sun salutations.
  • Sitting in a chair: Gaze to the right, pause and breathe. Return to center. Repeat on the left side.
  • Walking in nature: Strike a tree pose, and take in the sights and sounds around you. (If there’s snow outside, practice snow-ga!)
  • When you can take a 30-second break: Breathe, focusing on your breath for 30 seconds.

As always, honor your body; yoga shouldn’t be painful. If you have injuries or health issues, check with your doctor before practicing yoga.




Angel bumps

Depending on the year and circumstance, holidays can be joyful. They can be painful.  They can be one or both of those things, all wrapped into one package.

My grandmother, me, and my grandfather

Every year in December, I think of all loved ones that I miss, but especially my grandmother, Millie. She died a few days before Christmas in 2001.

As anyone who has lost a loved one knows, a familiar song or scent that serves as a reminder of a loved one can prompt smiles or tears at any time of the year. For me, the sound of polka music and the smell of pierogies with onions whisk me to memories of my grandparent’s home.

Polka music and pierogies: I rarely encounter either of those, but when I do, I can’t help but smile and sometimes cry.

When driving my mother to her first cancer treatment five years ago, I was filled with fear and missing my grandmother. She, too, had lived with cancer and the process of treating it. I knew that she would understand and know just the right thing to say in that situation.

As I drove toward the drop-off area, my mind went blank. I had lots to say and yet nothing to say.

And then, the static on the radio that I had neglected to adjust on the drive switched to polka music – loud, blaring, over-the-top happy, polka music.

It was a goosebump moment.

Or, as writer Anne Bardsley calls it, an “angel bump” moment.

I laughed at the silliness of it. It was the last thing I expected to happen in that otherwise unpleasant time. But that’s how my grandmother rolled; she could find joy and create laughter in any situation. Remembering her, and feeling like she was right there, was comforting.

Earlier this year, I learned that Anne was putting together an anthology called Angel Bumps, and I felt that it was time to share this story.

Angel Bumps – Hello from Heaven features 60 goosebump-worthy stories penned by 50 writers around the country.

Polka Pick-Me-Up is one of them! Signed copies of the book are available here.

Each story offers morsels of comfort to those who are missing loved ones. Being without a loved one can feel lonely, but these stories  – these angel bumps – reassure those experiencing grief that they are not alone.