Breathe.

Guest Post by: Becca Rowe, Marquette University student

“When you have one foot in the future and the other in the past, you piss on the present.” –Dan Harris, 10% Happier.

Graphic, I agree, but insightful. If you look beyond the shocking visual Harris has so graciously put in our heads, you will get a sense of how you’re doing life completely wrong.

RoweWe wander through life mindlessly – looking far into the future, while simultaneously rooting ourselves in the past. It is nearly impossible for us to live in the present. Not that reflection has no value, nor forward thinking a bad thing, but simply that we overlook our present. Our thoughts blind us from living through our present selves. We don’t notice the sensation of cool air hitting our skin as we step out of the shower because we are already thinking four steps ahead in our routine. We don’t see the myriad of vibrant colors in the cityscape, but you can bet that we will hyper-focus on where we are going, whom we are seeing and what we will be saying. Harris argues to be present is to be mindful, and here’s how he, and now I, figured that out.

Life is hard. It is messy and stressful and busy and intense and difficult and…well you surely get the gist. Life is not easy and nor do I believe it was intended to be. We are handed obstacles that challenge our minds to overcome, but more often than not we succumb to. In the case of Dan Harris it was battles with drug addiction, fame and anxiety that clouded his mind.

Harris’ troubling journey of skeptical self-discovery provides me inspiration. Not because his wit and cynicism speak to my soul, but because Harris’ path seems all too real. A self-help book on mindfulness will not tell you that being mindful is hard. It certainly will not tell you that your hunt for ‘happiness’ will leave you unsatisfied, but Harris does. His intent, I believe, is not to discourage us, but rather to challenge us to realistically see our world for what we can.

Through mindfulness we grasp reality—real reality, not the false realities we create in our heads, but what life is like right here and now. Clear minds produce pure thoughts. Pure thoughts come from feelings. Feelings are sensations of the mind and body’s interconnectedness. Our mental clarity relies on our mindfulness, and what are we doing for our person if we cannot experience our present lives? My answer is that we are doing ourselves a grave injustice.

I am victim of a clouded and mindless life. My battles with depression, anxiety, stress and learning disabilities compiled with increasing financial and personal responsibility flood my head with confusion. I struggle with resonating in the past to planning my life years from now in a continuous cycle of unproductivity. Self admittedly this process has numbed my feelings. I was trapped in self-destructive cycles, which I only realized when I was on the brink of giving up everything. But then I was told to breathe. Not just an average breath, but a full and focused breath. I was told to feel my stomach rising and falling. I was told to not think, but feel and that’s when it hit me. Like a literal burden had been lifted from my shoulders, I sank into the chair. I rose feeling calm and focused, unlike I had ever felt before. And that is how I started my journey of mindfulness.

Harris writes it best when he says, “meditation is not about feeling a certain way. It’s about feeling the way you feel.” And feeling what you feel is a beautiful thing.

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