My stomach stiffens. The tension along the back of my neck feels like a vice grip. It's 8:45 in the morning and I'm about to speak in front of a theater filled with strangers. As the audience members file into their seats, I mentally scan my notes. Will this crowd of seniors really be interested in what I have to say?
My first words into the microphone bring me to that oddly surreal place...I hear my voice throughout the room with a slight echoing delay and I instantly want to shoot out of my body and become an observer versus feeling the massive adrenaline rush that's coursing through my veins.
But as quick as that sensation begs me to jump ship, my yoga practice pulls me back into the moment. I ask the audience a question and while they raise their hands, I pause and take a breath. My wise inner voice talks to me calmly and says,
"I am here. I can feel my feet in my shoes. I can feel the sweat under my armpits. I am here and I can do this."
As the presentation continues, I fall into step with myself and trust what I've practiced up to this point. Being present in this moment, in my body, with these uncomfortable feelings is more important than the rehearsed words I'm saying. I'm here to show up fully, even if my legs get shaky; even if I stumble over my sentences. When I embrace all the sensations of the moment, everything becomes more vivid and alive. Something shifts and everything seems to be in sync. I enter into my flow state as defined by the famous researcher, Mihaly Csikszenthmihalyi.
Saying hello to our uncomfortable feelings is just as important as embracing our most joyous or elated ones. Whether it means staying connected in my body as I have an argument with my spouse or recognizing the expansiveness I get while receiving great news, the awareness and willingness to feel the moment keeps life force flowing. Resisting these feelings creates tension like a wall being errected inside my body.
I have a quote posted by my desk from Neale Donald Walsch that says, "Experiencing unpleasant feelings is part of a miraculous process that is getting you exactly where you want to go." I may not always understand why my chest tightens, or my stomach flips, or even why my back tends to lock up at times when I'm stressed; but I do know that when I say hello to these sensations and welcome them into the moment of my experience, I'm able to remain in flow. This present moment awareness always shows me the next step to take.
Thanks to my yoga practice, I'm able to use the skill of feeling my emotions and how they show up in my body as well as bringing the skill of awareness to be present and accepting.
What emotions do you need to say hello to right now? How can you stay present in this moment?