How to Mindfully Connect at The Ranch and Beyond
I remember the first time I arrived at The Ranch. The sun was low in the western sky, and Mount Kuchumaa was but a silhouette in the distance. The smell of rosemary was all around, and there was an excitement in the air. I knew I was about to experience a week of magic. I had come to The Ranch to lead meditation and yoga sessions for the guests.
As the sun rose that first Sunday morning, I was to lead my first meditation class in the Milagro gym. I entered the space and realized my mind was distracted by the excitement and possibilities. It was so difficult to simply be present and be fully immersed in the experience. It felt like I would be missing out if I didn’t get every last moment of The Ranch experience checked off my list.
For the first full day, I found myself rushing from one activity to the next, and forgetting to find the moments to simply slow down and soak up the subtle beauty all around me. To say my mind was busy would be an understatement.
Such is the way most of us live our lives. We rush from one activity to the next and often forget to pause and take the time to experience unhurried thought and appreciation in the present moment. It has been said that presence is our present, yet so many of us miss out on this natural gift.
A Harvard study by Killingsworth and Gilbert revealed that the average human mind wanders approximately 47% of the time. This means that we are actually missing out on almost half of our life experience in the present moment because we have become distracted by thoughts that lure us away.
It is not a bad thing to allow the mind to wander outside of the present moment. In fact, sometimes, it is quite necessary to make plans and decisions. However, when we are unaware of our wandering mind and it creates thoughts of past or future stories involving worry and stress, it is important to re-focus and come back to the here and now.
Have you ever noticed that in this present moment, there is no fear? Fear only exists in a wandering mind that has shifted into what might happen in the future or what has happened in the past. In this present moment, you have access to complete safety and peace. Further to this, everything around you in the present moment is alive, aware, and responsive and has secrets to share. As you cultivate more presence, you come to discover that everything is happening perfectly on time, without needing to control it or get somewhere else.
Can you hear the whispering wind blowing through the trees? The beautiful songbird reminding you to be more playful? How about the invisible breath spilling in and out of your body right now, reminding you to relax? What is the lesson or gift that this present moment is trying to offer you? When you tune in-you will receive what you need.
I look back at my first week visiting The Ranch, I realize now that I was being seduced by my busy mind that suggested I would be missing out if I didn’t get every single experience checked off the list. It had me convinced that I needed to get somewhere other than where I currently was. Since this time, I have made it a practice to stop over-planning where I think I should be and instead have allowed each present moment and my own inner intuition to lead me along the path. This is a constant practice!
Over the past ten years of leading mindfulness practices, I have found that our power is in the present moment. NOW is always perfectly on time for us if we are willing to embody it and connect. Here are a few suggestions to cultivate more presence in your own life:
Anchoring Practice: Spend a few moments each day focusing your mind on the present moment. This could be observing one breath or focusing on one phrase such as “I am here now” and gently bringing yourself back to the anchored focus when your mind wanders.
Mindful Walking: In moments of stress and distraction, I highly recommend changing your current state by taking a short mindfulness walk. Bring your attention to each step along the walk and choose a pace that relaxes you. Make a point of taking in the present moment sights, smells, sounds, and feelings that arise as you journey.
Appreciation: To appreciate something, we must become present to the feeling of gratitude. Take a moment right now and find something that you are appreciating. The more you appreciate each moment, the more present you will be.
Keith Macpherson is a mindfulness presenter and author of the book, Making Sense of Mindfulness. He will be presenting Making Sense of Mindfulness at The Ranch November 16-23, 2019. You can sign up for his free ABC’s of Mindfulness Online Course at: https://www.keithmacpherson.ca/abcofmindfulness2