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Posts Tagged ‘present moment’

Tug ‘O War

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Today I found myself caught in a tug ‘o war.

On one side: I was stuck in the future: So many projects happening all at once. I was thinking that maybe I’ve put too many irons in the fire at one time. How am I going to get ‘em all done? How can I do ‘em all well? Filled with anxiety.

And then, of course, I also found that I’d been dreaming about the potential success that these projects bring. The accolades that could be/might be there.

On the other side: I was trapped in the past. I could see so many missed opportunities. I could see things I should have done differently. I was playing the “If only I’d…” game.

And then, of course, I also found myself basking in the sweet memories of things that have gone well. Things that went according to plan. Or even better than I’d anticipated.

The problem with all of this? I wasn’t moving! I was stuck! 

It’s like BOTH sides of the rope had an equal pull.  Both sides were locked.  And so was I.

After what felt like HOURS of sitting and fretting and daydreaming, I realized what was happening. So I had to stop. And breathe.

And I took a strum break. The sound of those four simple strings always helps to bring me back to the present moment and helps me to focus! (And to be totally honest, sometimes I find myself calming down just by looking at an ‘ukulele. Simply knowing it’s there brings a smile to my face.)

I had to remind myself that the only reality is the present moment.  

Yes… I have a lot of things on my plate. But fretting about them or dreaming about their potential outcomes doesn’t help me to move forward. Instead, I’m stuck.

And likewise, worrying about things I’ve done wrong in the past or basking in the glow of past accomplishments doesn’t move me forward, either.

So I’ve set a timer to remind me to take conscious breath every hour.

And I’m keeping an ‘ukulele within arm’s reach.

And I’m making (tiny!) movements forward. One at a time today. But movement–any movement!– is good.

Movement is not stagnation.  And I’m grateful for that.

Right on.

*What do YOU do when you find yourself in a tug ‘o war between the past and the future?  How do YOU return to the present moment?


An Anchor

Thursday, October 27, 2011

kamaka, kamaka ukulele, 'ukulele, standard ukulele, soprano ukulele

Kamaka standard (soprano) 'ukulele

I was going to title this “Using the ʻUkulele as an Anchor.”

But then I pictured a bunch of people in boats and  (gasp!) throwing their ‘ukuleles overboard and trying to literally use them an an anchor.  The image made me laugh.  And I was equally horrified by the thought.

But it’s what I’ve been trying to do lately: use the ʻukulele as an anchor.

Or more specifically: Using the SOUND of the ʻukulele as an anchor to the present moment.

Here’s the scoop:

A series of traumatic events in my youth rocked my world.  As a survival technique, I learned to “disassociate.”

It’s not that uncommon.  We all do it–at least to a certain extent.  When the going gets rough, we “check out” (mentally) and go to a happy place.  Perhaps a happier time in the past.  Or even dream of a happy time to come in the future.

And let me be clear:  I’m so thankful to have been able to do that as a kid.  I’m pretty sure it saved my life.

However, if that becomes a standard practice/habit for you, you run the risk of losing touch with the present.

Think about how much time you spend during the day thinking about “What if…” (future) or “I should have…” (past).  It’s pretty wild how little time many of us stay rooted in the PRESENT moment.

That’s a HUGE problem for me.

Recently, I was reading about a Buddhist tradition that uses the sound of a bell to remind the practitioners to “come back to the present moment.”

The sound, in essence, wakes them from their dream state.  It helps them to become aware of the NOW.  It serves like an anchor–something to hold on to.

And I was thinking that I could do the same thing with my ‘ukulele.

For example, I spend a significant part of my day studying about the ancient traditions of an ancient valley.  Then I spend time studying “vintage” songs–the crooner classics–that I love so much.  And I also spend a piece of my day working on a writing project that explores events from my personal past.  That’s a lot of living in the PAST.

As a champion worry wart, I spend a lot of time dreaming up catastrophes.  Yup.  Like  ”What if the (insert potential tragedy/catastrophe) happens?  How will I/we/the world deal with that?”  Living in the FUTURE.  (And not even in a fun way.  Yuck!)


One thing that I keep close at hand is my ʻukulele.

You guys know how much I value a simple strum break.  The sound of those 4 simple strings helps to ground me.

It’s like my “bell.”  My anchor to the present.


This week, I’ve been taking a moment to really LISTEN to the ʻukulele.

To strum it very consciously.  And I’m not talking about doing that for an entire song.  I strum a simple chord a few times.  (Maybe 3 times in a row.  Or perhaps a simple “Hawaiian vamp” that you might hear at the start of so many classic hula tunes.)

And I really LISTEN to it.  This isn’t about listening to see if my ‘ukulele is tune.  Or even to strum the opening of a tune I’m about to play.  This is just to listen to the sound.

And I’ve gotta tell you:  it’s helping.

It’s really neat to be able to strum and take a deep breath and just listen.

So, I thought I’d pass this little practice along to you.

Maybe it will help you, too!

Using the ʻukulele as an anchor to the present moment.

Right on.

What tools/tricks/techniques help YOU stay anchored to the present moment?  Drop me a line!  I’d love to hear from you.