“If you’re always looking for the forest, you’re going to miss the beauty of the tree.” My spiritual teacher told me this years ago. At the time of this particular lesson, I was a graduate student so used to overachieving and meeting deadlines. It was great and I achieved well, but relaxing wasn’t easy.
The lesson I’ve garnered from this quote is that life moves quickly; if we’re constantly in the future or likewise in the past, we miss the beauty of the present. We miss beauty all around us because calm, peace, joy, and laughter happen in the present moment.
Depression is getting stuck in the past. Anxiety is worry about what-ifs and the future. Yet, when we are attuned to right now, we can calm our mind and our physiology. Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, said it a different way: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
A simple and powerful strategy I have available to me at all times is my breath. When I notice myself thinking about deadlines or feeling that sense of urgency associated with perfectionism, calming my physiology by taking slow, even, and deep breaths in and out, is my solution. After 3-5 minutes, I notice my thoughts slowing down and tension alleviating. After years of practice, my breath continues to be my present and perfect companion.
Have you made friends with your breath?