A wise teacher once told me that the only guarantee in life is that everything will change, and the only permanent relationship you will ever have is with your mind, breath, and body.
I was sitting in a large open aired wooden pagoda in the jungles of Sri Lanka, the year after the tsunami. A college project I designed after researching art therapy became a study abroad program. We worked with a group of children orphaned by the tsunami at the request of a Sri Lankan ambassador. At a Buddhist temple high on a hill, we would do art projects aimed at self expression, where I was a teacher. But in the mornings, at dawn, I was a student of yoga.
Harsha and I would meet at sunrise for our daily practice. This was my second summer working with this particular group of children, whose art was emotional and often depicted scenes of floating bodies. If anyone knew how quickly life could change, it was them. Meeting with Harsha and learning yoga transformed my relationship with my mind, and taught me the importance of being in the moment.
When we are in the moment, and actively acknowledge we have no control over the past or future, but have full control of this moment right now, we have space in our minds to figure our who we truly are. Your true self is separate from your position at work, or your possessions. Your true self is strong enough to power through the rough patches life throws at us all too often. Personally, the practice of yoga has helped me in my journey to find my true self. And as I travel on my own journey of redefining who I am, lessons from my teacher in Sri Lanka still ring true. These three grains of wisdom below will help you on your journey towards finding yourself, through mindfulness.
Where is your mind?
This is a question my late and great teacher Harsha would ask at the beginning and end of every class. I urge you to ask yourself the same question: Where is your mind? Is it here with your body, or is it somewhere else? We spend the majority of our day with our mind being detached from our bodies. At work, our mind is focused on a task. At home, perhaps our mind is focused on caring for others. In this moment right now, bring your mind to your body, and just notice what it feels like to breathe.
Learn to love your body.
This is so much easier said than done. We are a society bombarded with products and services aimed at profiting off our lack of love for our bodies. Find a movement practice that helps you love being in your body. Maybe dancing and moving in your body makes you feel good. Maybe slow and steady yoga helps you feel strong. Perhaps distance running helps you realize your inner strength. The most important part of learning to love your body is loving being inside your body — and to do this, you have to move in a way that feels good!
Live in the present.
Your anxieties are in your past or your future. Live this truth. Right now, you are reading this article on your phone or your computer. You are likely sitting somewhere in relative comfort. Any anxiety that you have lives in your past or your future. If you focus on the present moment with your full attention, you may notice the simple pleasures of being alive: the sensation of breathing, the texture of the fabric of your clothing, the comfort of being in your body. Work to stop defining yourself by your past, and worrying about your future. The easiest way for you to do this is to just breathe, notice what it feels like, and keep your mind in your body.
Now is your time to live your truth. Stop worrying about what other people are thinking, and do what feels right in your gut. As the founder of an office yoga company, my job is to help people leave their stress and anxiety behind, getting one step closer to finding their true selves. I’m able to get people there through yoga. How will you get there?
Lauren Coles is the Founder and Lead Teacher of Daisy Office Yoga, New York City’s first office yoga company, where she brings yoga to people at work. She has co-written the first Office Yoga curriculum backed by research and medical science, and believes in the power of yoga to improve people’s relationship with their minds and bodies. Her YouTube series, Ms. Yoga CEO, aims to inspire people to be the best versions of themselves through simple yoga and meditation.