Where Does the Rain in Spain Mainly Fall?
You’ll Never Know Unless You Stay Present to Your Experience…
When I was a junior in college, I spent a semester in Madrid, Spain. I didn’t start panicking until I got there. I worried about everything. Would the family I was assigned to live with speak enough English? Would their home be close enough to the homestays of my fellow students? Would they be nice to me? I cried after the weekend orientation, standing in the lobby of the hotel where our hosts were meeting us to pick us up.
My fears were unfounded. The family I was assigned to — a woman named Carmen and her twin daughters, Astrid and Olga — were kind, they spoke some English and their home was centrally located. I was doing okay, in the process of adjusting, until I got sick about three weeks into the program. I had a high fever and I even fainted, for the first time ever, finding myself slumped next to the toilet in the bathroom. It was scary. But I was cared-for.
I can’t say whether my experience would have been any different if I hadn’t gotten sick, but following that weird bout with the Spanish flu, I felt isolated and out-of-place, a blond, American, English-speaking stranger in a strange land. I had a homemade calendar tacked in my little room at Francos Rodrigues 31 on which I x-ed out each day before I went to bed. I spent inordinate amounts of time in cafes, drinking cafe con leche, reading and writing in a journal. I made friends — sort of — with a barista.
My journaling was only weather-reporting. There is no evidence, other than my recollection, that I struggled while I was there. Because I was doing everything I could just to get through. Staying on the surface instead of examining my experience was the safe way to be. I wasn’t being completely present to what was going down.
During the most transformative experiences of my life, it had been the best that I could do to just get through. I put my head down, shoved my earbuds into my ears and dove into make-believe worlds.
But now, I want more.
There are benefits to being present: You get to fully live your life. You get to learn from your life and grow and transform. Of course, transformation isn’t always comfortable or pretty, but what else are you here for?
I want to be present to what’s happening. I want to learn from everything I’m going through, the way I am changing, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Because, now, I am about to go through another transformative experience. I am going to have a baby. So, I am asking myself: “How do you want to be throughout this journey?” I am nearly half-way through this experience, already. I don’t want all it has to offer to pass me by.
So here is how I will dive in and be in it.
Beyond the weather report: In my journal, I’ll be recording more than the mere facts of my day. “Today we went to Parque de Retiro…” In what ways are you avoiding what’s really going on underneath the mundane of the everyday?
Talk to people: Instead of staying in my safe little bubble, I’ll talk to people who have gone through or are going through what I am experiencing. How are you avoiding letting other people into your experience? It’s through our interactions that our minds expand. How can encourage that to happen?
Just stop it for a second: I am going to stop all the doing and listen in. I have a daily meditation practice but it’s my goal to listen even more deeply. Quiet the internal and external voices. How has your internal commentary been robbing you of presence? How has the external commentary been playing over and over in your mind? Can you sit in silence for a bit and quiet it? What would that do for you?
Have you ever gone through a period of time in your life that was so hard, so transformational, that you muscled through and, before you had a chance to live it, it was over? What would your experience look like if you actually picked your head up and took a look around? What would it be like if you got present? What can you notice?
Post your thoughts in the comments below.
If you thought this post was useful, pass it along to a friend. And remember, sign up for the mailing list so you can get news about articles like this, offerings and special events. It’s free! And you get some free goodies just for being your awesome self.