How often do we notice the world around us? Really notice it. Whether it’s taking in the color of the leaves as they change from spring green to golden autumn hues, or simply being aware of what it feels like to exist as a physical human presence in the world, we so often don’t spend the time to process the constant sensory information we are receiving. Like Obi-Wan at the beginning of The Phantom Menace, we constantly try to be mindful of the future, centering on our anxieties, planning and replanning our day, our week, our lives. How often do we take Qui-Gon’s advice, keeping our minds in the here and now, where they belong? How often do we sacrifice the present moment for the hypothetical future, or the unalterable past?
With that in mind, to cultivate a better sense of being present, and the Jedi quality of awareness, here is a moving meditation. You can do it on your commute (assuming it won’t distract you in a dangerous way, if you’re in charge of your vehicle), on a walk, or even just sitting still for a moment at your desk or waiting in line for something.
Get comfy; straighten up if you’ve been slouching, move your feet to distribute your weight more evenly between them if you’re standing. Close your eyes, and take a first deep breath, in, and out. Continue to breathe deeply, but naturally.
Bring your attention to your physical self, your sense of touch. How does the air feel on your skin, or in your lungs as you breathe? How does your clothing feel, or the seat you are sitting on? What about your muscles: are the tense or sore, or are they relaxed? Be present with your physical self, noting without judgement how your body feels, and any physical sensations you are experiencing, good or bad.
Spend as long as you want on each sensation, then take a deep breath, and exhale.
Bring your attention without judgement to the sounds around you: the quiet noise of your breath, perhaps the people with you on the bus, the birds and leaves chattering and rustling on your morning walk, or the rumble of engines on the highway. Take in everything you hear, and simply listen.
When you feel ready to move on, take a deep breath, and focus your attention on smell. Try not to judge what scents you notice, merely catalog them and pay attention to what the sense of smell is communicating to you. Can you smell the exhaust of vehicles on the road? Your deodorant? Maybe any scents of food or flowers the breeze might bring you? Even what you might taste along with these smells; your toothpaste, something you ate for breakfast, the taste of water from a water bottle. Be present with this sense.
Take another deep breath, and exhale. Slowly open your eyes and bring your awareness to the sights around you. For most people, sight is how we primarily interact with the world, which is why it was easier to be present with your other senses with your eyes closed. Now as you open your eyes, stay present in the moment, and take in, without analysis or judgement what you see. Notice the people around you, the quality of the light. Look out the windows of your car (safely), or around at your surroundings. What is there to be seen? Stay with these images without holding onto them, or the ideas they represent or bring up, and merely experience visual input.
When you feel you have finished, take a final deep breath in, and notice how you feel after these moments of reflection. Do you feel more full, more calm, more centered? Remember what it feels like to have paid attention to yourself and your surroundings with care and lack of judgement.
Slowly wiggle your fingers and toes, or stretch to bring yourself back into the here and now as you go about your day.