On Being Present

My mind has a habit of drifting, wandering, and I find myself carried away. Either into a warm, nostalgic memory, or some vision of the idealized distant future. I love teaching and practicing mindfulness with my clients, but I have to ask myself, how often am I utilizing this technique for my own self-care? During a short visit to the Carolinas this past week, I had an insightful conversation with my grandmother. She asked me a simple question: “are you satisfied with your life?”. A question that I’ve been hesitant to ask myself lately. Living so far away from my birthplace, I was infatuated with this brief homecoming, basking in past memories, taking in the golden, feathery sunsets and lush greenery, gazing up at the massive old trees, comparing it all to the scenery of my new home. As if I were trying to decide which landscape I prefer, which one feels more authentic, which one reflects where I need to “end up”, or “settle down”. Which is why this question seemed so daunting. Am I satisfied? Expending energy hazy with nostalgia or hyper-focused on future plans, will I ever be? Life never turns out quite the way we plan or imagine (although sometimes, it’s even better), and obsessing over that can be self-destructive. In my graduate program, we often discussed a phenomenon called Destination Addiction. It’s the unattainable idea that whenever a certain goal is reached, happiness will automatically follow. We also discussed the theory that we remember events in a better light than when we actually experienced the event. These cognitions are what can keep us disillusioned and distant from the present moment, from current, ongoing happiness. Practicing mindfulness (being present and nonjudgmental in the moment), appreciating the little things that make us feel at home, and focusing on the amazing aspects of everyday life, these are a few basic essentials for self-care and feeling satisfied. Sunsets are beautiful anywhere, but we have to be present in order to appreciate them.

How do you stay present?

Elements

As I sit here writing, I notice the scent of tea tree lingering from my hair, slightly damp from my shower. I breathe in the warmth from the green tea in my favorite mug. I am safe. I am clean. I am comfortable. Unexposed to the elements on this unusually chilly night. I feel cozy tonight, but my mind wanders to a recent camping adventure in which I was almost completely exposed to the elements, at the mercy of Mother Earth. With the promising forecast of clear skies and decent temperatures, five of us headed out with our camping gear, unfazed by the unpredicted grey clouds looming in the distance. A few hours into our trip, tents built and campfire blazing, those clouds opened up and the rain began to pour. We ran into our tent and huddled up together, waiting for it to pass. These unexpected but temporary downpours continued on and off throughout our trip, producing the most beautiful sunset and sunrise. We were exposed to the elements with few options for shelter, nervously hoping that the tent enveloping us would hold up through the periodic storms. It is eye opening to get a glimpse of what so many people are forced to experience on a daily basis, exposed to wind, rain, cold temperatures. However, we were doing this for fun. We chose to wait out the rain and thunder for the joy of camping. There seems to be a common nomadic daydream among many in our generation. The dream of living on the road or off the grid, a form of chosen homelessness. There is something that feels so natural and primal about living in such a way. It feels magical to wake up in a forest, making your breakfast over the fire you’ve built, cooling off in a nearby stream, completely surrounded by nature. I feel that while living our chosen lifestyles, whatever they may be, it is important to remember that we are lucky enough to get to choose that lifestyle. As someone dedicated to a helping profession, I wonder how many ways we can find to reroute our daily activities in order to give back, to waste less, to show compassion? Volunteering, recycling, composting, donating, leaving no trace, etc… I would love to hear your thoughts on this! What aspects of your lifestyle are dedicated to bettering the planet, or what would you like to start doing and learning more about?

Carolina to Colorado, Part Deux

We did it. We moved across the country from Asheville, North Carolina to Colorado Springs, Colorado. From the Smokies to the Rockies. 1500 miles of driving, music, laughter, and anticipation. We are currently falling in love with our new home.

Change is good; growth is amazing. I can’t wait to show you (and myself) what is yet to come.

Stay tuned for more adventures out west.

Carolina to Colorado

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Sometimes there are days that demand change, and then there are days that suggest the perfection of the present. The deep descent and the foamy whitecaps of the waves that life offers can be beautiful, sad, and exciting, and they seem to either come all at once, or few and far between. Change, although often necessary to promote growth, can feel daunting. Change often means the abandonment of comfort, security, familiarity. It also offers a promise of renewal, happiness, and adventure. But what happens when that promise goes unfulfilled? Maybe to elicit successful change and growth, the beauty of the current situation must be acknowledged and appreciated.
Change has been on my mind lately, particularly regarding change of scenery. I have lived in North Carolina my entire life. When I visited Colorado last month for the first time, it stole my heart. It was my first time off of work in six months, and it was much needed. Taking time away, away from stress, routines, morning commutes, is so good for my spirit. Traveling keeps me from feeling stagnant and opens my eyes and mind to different customs, places, and ideas. I have traveled to a few places, such as Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, England, Mexico, New York, Key West, and now, Colorado. I would love to continue to travel the world and explore new places. I dream of traveling to places like Thailand, France, Egypt, Prague, as well as the west coast of the US, which I have somehow never managed to see in my 25 years of life. Colorado is as close as I have come to the west coast. It was just what I needed to promote my own self-care, something you hear a lot about in the counseling world. It felt amazing to get away for awhile, to be with loved ones, to meet new people, to see new, beautiful places, and to contemplate the idea of change. In 9 short days, my partner, Luke, and I managed to visit Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, and Buena Vista. We spent most of our time wandering around town(s), reconnecting with friends and family,  exploring mountain tops, and praising the gripping ability of our hiking boots. It was a wonderful opportunity to learn new things about ourselves and about each other. The feeling of renewal I gained from our trip inspired me to begin documenting my personal methods of self-care and wellness, and to become more contemplative about different practices I might try.

Boulder, Colorado

Cheyenne CañonCheyenne Creek
Colorado Springs Farmers Market

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Maybe to elicit successful change and growth, the beauty of the current situation must be acknowledged and appreciated.

My situation is beautiful.