On a recent trip to Northern California, this sign – yield to the present – came into view as I entered the property of Spirit Rock, a place I was exploring for a future retreat. It made me think about how challenging it is to stay present in today’s world. Maybe if we posted sticky note signs in our homes and offices it would help us remember what is truly important. Instead of “to-dos” and grocery lists, we could write: Be Aware. Slow Down. Just Breathe. Be kind.
I have often thought about yield signs. How so few drivers actually yield: Not slowing down to allow other cars to enter or exit. Am I alone in noticing this? To yield means to “give way to,” which is an aspect of mindfulness: being aware of what is present, without forcing your viewpoints or preconceptions.
Whether on the road or off, we are often in a state of autopilot. Our minds wander elsewhere as we mechanically move our bodies or perform tasks, while ignoring not only other people and the space around us, but our breath as well. But – if we simply reconnect to our in-breath and out-breath, we bring body, mind and breath together. We become present. That one conscious breath allows a big pause, so instead of reacting habitually or in an unconscious way we might regret, we are better able to yield, or give way to others’ feelings and respond intelligently, or not at all.
In the midst of our daily whirlwind of distractions it’s not easy to yield to mindfulness. But remember, just like learning to drive, it takes practice to become more skillful at driving mindfully through life. When you notice yourself not being present, be grateful you noticed, and then get back on the road. That is the practice, being able to start again. And it’s what cultivates resilience, a beneficial side-effect of mindfulness that we all need, to joyfully navigate through life’s hills and valleys.
For more tips on living a mindful life, read “Twelve Mindful Months: Cultivating a Balanced & Fit Body, Mind, & Spirit” by Carol Tibbetts.