One of my teachers, Lance Brunner, talked about how he worked with doctors in a hospital, helping them be more present. Doctors wanted to be able to connect with their patients more deeply, so Lance gave them a quick practice for cutting through the distracting thoughts in their minds. When they would put their hands on a door knob, before entering a room with a patient, they would go through a series of steps: Stop, Breathe, Be...
This could be a very useful thing to practice over the holidays, when you find yourself with family. These interactions can be highly emotional for many of us, or they can be a time to relax. Either way, if you can be more present, your interactions with people and with the world will be much more alive and rewarding.
Many cultures and people have forms of rousing oneself to be present in a few moments. The Asian bow is such a practice. In order for it to work, it should have at least 3 main steps:
- Cut through distraction
- Feel your heart
- Let go
Cutting through distraction is about planting yourself firmly in the moment, in the place where you are. You just drop your thoughts like they were hanging from the ceiling and you cut the strings. Its kind of like when you are eating sushi and you eat some ginger. The ginger's spicy, fresh quality cleanses the palate so you can taste the freshness of the fish.
Feeling your heart is the most tangible part for me. Once you cut through the distraction, you move your attention to the heart center. You feel the pressure, the anxiety, the fullness of it. Its like you are touching the epicenter of emotions. You are checking in to see what is up. Maybe you are afraid and you can feel the vulnerable quality in your heart. Or maybe you are feeling peaceful so you can feel the even, stable beat of your heart.
The last part is letting go. After you've felt your heart, you aren't going to dwell on it. After all, you have things to do. At this point you take this in-tune feeling and you let it go in a flash, like letting birds fly off into the sky. You feel awake and refreshed. Now you can start something new with a clean slate.
This practice should be used to touch into your gentleness. You gain sensitivity toward your surroundings and where you stand in those surroundings so that you can proceed with natural wisdom. It's important not to do this for your ego. In other words, don't use this to pump yourself up into aggressive action.
Here is a story from Lewis Pugh about what happens when he tried to use controlled aggression to push through a difficult swim in a lake near Mount Everest: