Written by Billy Potocnik in 2017
Like so much of any routine that we adopt in life, when we do things on a regular basis, it is easy to take that “routine” for granted. In fact, that basic truth is responsible for some many positive routines being broken and why so many relationships go astray. "We’ve been there, done that, old news, nothing new, and I have seen it before.” No doubt, that we have all been that person before. I know that I have. Take a moment to think about how you move through your day. How many of those moments are you completely ‘checked out’? How many of those moments are you just ‘checking the boxes’ and ‘squaring things away’ on your way to whatever is next in your seemingly mundane routine of living day to day? If we are fortunate to live long enough, we start to realize that we don’t really have control over the crazy world that we live in or even our immediate environment. We can set intentions. We can manifest. But, “setting intentions” and “manifesting” fail to be either of those things if we do it under the illusion or with the desire that we can control our world.
So, when we strip away the illusion of control, what are we left with? Once again, we are left with … Ourselves. Scary, huh? But, admit it - a little liberating too, isn’t it? I think of that saying that we have all heard before, “Every time you point that finger at someone else, there are three more fingers pointing right back at you.” Damn, busted! The truth is that it’s not her fault. It’s not his fault. And, it’s not your fault either. However, you are - WE are - responsible for reframing our perspective of things. Think about the first time you saw the ocean. Try and remember the first snowflake on your tongue. Some of these things you may not remember because you were just a child and it was so long ago that you truly don’t remember. Maybe you cannot access the memory because of years and time, but perhaps you can recreate that memory in a way that wakes you up to the beauty of the moment.
Einstein famously said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” Well, use your imagination then . . . Can I see this moment for the very first time? Can I see through new eyes? The vast beauty of the world can be found in every moment of our day. What a shame it is to not feel the magnificence and mystery of that ocean. Or, the frozen cold of that snowflake disappear on our tongue. That is a gorgeous tree! How many times have you just passed by it without noticing it’s splendor? But, let’s be realistic . . Is it easy? Hell no. Will we fail? Yes indeed. Thich Nhat Hanh simply and beautifully talks about mindfulness and the idea that, “Right now, I know that I am breathing in, and now I breathe out . . . “
So much of being mindful is allowing ourselves in each moment to simply breath in and simply breath out. In doing that, we are allowing ourselves to interact with the moment through 'new eyes', empty from preconceived notions and illusions of past and future. The simple act of spreading butter on toast in the morning can take on a whole new significance. Sure, I have done this thousands of times before, but now as I breathe in and breathe breathe out, I realize that this moment while buttering my toast, is everything. When we slow down our mind and allow ourselves to be present, the moment is always just that - EVERYTHING. In that way, we are allowing ourselves to interact with our world for the ‘very first time’ and to see our world through new eyes. All of the sudden, the “mundane” isn’t so “mundane” anymore! We start to break the dysfunctional cycle of taking - not our lives - but, more specifically, the moments of our lives for granted. We stop living a life where we act like ‘the world owes us something’ simply because we’ve lived long enough, “been there, done that, seen it all before”, etc. We start to see more beauty and “magic” in the moments of our lives.
Now, think about your significant other - your lover, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend. Has life taken its’ toll on your relationship? I would imagine, for most of us, the answer would be “yes”. "Of course life gets in the way!”, you may exclaim. "How could it not?! Kids, bills to pay, money, job, career, and trying to balance all those responsibilities and obligations with some sort of fulfilling hobby and meaningful social life!" It is all completely understandable and easily rationalized, but they simply become excuses when we come to the realization that we have been going through our day to day life on ‘cruise control’. And, I admit, that still sounds over-simplified. Maybe, but maybe not. Like so many practiced skills, seeing things for the first time through new eyes, is simple in theory but harder to actually do. Therefore, we need to bring awareness to the actual moment. A Japanese Tea Ceremony isn’t just some "rigid, boring, routine” steeped in tradition, but rather a mindful ritual where the familiar is celebrated and rediscovered over and over for the very first time. Remember some of the things that made you fall in love with your partner. Do you still think about those things? It could be the way they giggle, how they walk, the smell of their hair, how they dance, the way they treat people, the shape of their nose, their quirky idiosyncrasies, or whatever. Whatever all of those things were that you fell in love before, perhaps you don’t even notice anymore. In fact, some of those things that you initially loved may now drive you nuts!
Regardless of how much truth this holds for each of us or not, I think that we can all agree that this is kind of sad. Again, we are reminded of the three fingers pointed back at ourself while we create the illusion that it’s his fault or her fault. How we decide to see someone or a situation is up to us. So, again - we remind ourselves that ‘the arrow points toward our own heart’. We have decided to stop appreciating our partner and ‘rediscovering’ what is so beautiful about them every day. They didn’t change as much as we decided to take them for granted and lump them in with the “mundaneness” of our lives. Of course you are suffering because you made that special person unappreciated. It is hard to be inspired when we decide to look through old and tired eyes. Familiarity can be a wonderful thing, but without ’new eyes’ to see through, complacency becomes the norm and we don’t just start taking our loved ones for granted, but we take our whole lives for granted! We convince ourselves that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”, “the spark is gone” and other illusions that allow us to point the arrow away from ourselves. In relationship is where so much of our growth takes place - our relationships with others as well as our relationship with ourselves. If you are on this path of growth and openness, then you know, it is not easy and it is often not pretty. We are constantly urged to look at ourselves and the perspectives that we have chosen. It is up to me. It is up to you.
Every time I unroll my yoga mat, I get to remind myself that I am always a practicing for the very first time. I get to practice seeing my own life and yoga practice through new eyes with an open heart with no expectations, just breathing in and breathing out. With the practice of seeing through new eyes, I get to see my wife walk through that door for the very 'first time’ over and over again and I get to notice her shimmering beauty that brought me so quickly and deeply in love with her. I get to hear my six year old son’s laughter and tears for the very first time calling me to laugh along or hold him close. I get to look upon my older son and step-daughter as teen-agers learning to find their place in this crazy world and remembering them not long ago when they were six together running around and making up games without a care in the world. I am reminded of time and how fast it seems to move by and how there is so much to miss out on when we are not paying attention . . . I am reminded that there is so much beauty and so much to feel, if we have the courage and awareness to redefine the moment by seeing our lives for the first time through new eyes.
The world will not stop spinning to bring back your husband’s hair, take away your wife’s wrinkles, or make your children young and innocent playing in the treehouse again. We start to let go of the illusions that take us away from the truth of right now. Each moment of our day can be a ceremony of practice and perspective . . . I breathe in. . . It can be a ritual of seeing newness in the familiar . . . I breathe out . . . Seeing magic in the “mundane" . .. I breathe in . . . I see my life for the very first time today . . . I breathe out . . . This moment is the most important moment of my life.