As I explained in part 1 of One Blue Cup At A Time, overcoming my fear of telling the people closest to me that I was struggling with postpartum depression was a major hurdle.  Fortunately, as I was first starting to find my way out of the dark, I received the most important lesson I would learn.  This serendipitous moment came as I was talking on the phone to my good friend Nathalie who, despite living 3 hours away, called ‘bullshit‘ on my diversion tactics and offered me some advice that changed everything.

She told me I needed to live my life in the present moment.  Yesterday is over and tomorrow isn’t mine (nor is 10 minutes from now).  Nathalie made me realize that I only have today and really, only the single moment I am living in right now.

Think about that.  The only moment you have is this one.

From our conversation, Nathalie could see that I was spending too much of my time thinking about things that happened in the past, and the worrisome possibilities I created about my future.  They were the ‘what if’s’ that kept me from sleeping a wink many nights.

Then she shared a strategy with me that was equally simple and life changing.

She asked me what I was doing and I said, “I am about to wash the dishes.”

“Perfect!” she said.  “What I want you to do is think about your dishes as you wash them.  Really experience washing the dishes.  Take a cup in your hands and say to yourself, ‘This is a nice blue cup.  I love this colour of blue.’  Then count the cups, feel the cups, rinse the cups, dry the cups.  Right now, you are washing dishes.  There is nothing else happening to you but that.”

At first it was a bit awkward, but I knew something had to change.  Over time; however, what I found was that it was actually easy to do and it worked.  I began to bring myself  into each moment by consciously focusing on what was actually happening.  If I got distracted I would tell myself, ‘hey, I’m distracted‘ and would focus on my breathing to bring myself back.  The more I did it, the easier it became.

Soon I started to notice everything.  I saw trees in my neighborhood I had never seen before; I became aware of people, cars and houses that I didn’t previously know existed; and most importantly I saw my children again.  I felt them, I smelled them, I heard them and for the first time since my son’s birth, I was totally with them when I was with them.

Now I don’t want you to think that a complete shift miraculously happened over night.  It took months of conscious practice to be in a place where I felt I had my ‘well-being’ back.  But each time I brought myself into the present moment I felt better .

I also read a lot about being present and the law of attraction during this time and began to employ other techniques that I still use today.  One of my greatest resources was A New Earth (Oprah #61) by Eckhart Tolle.  An incredible book about letting go of your ego and accepting ‘what is’.

Today, I continue to face challenges and experience overwhelm.  We all do.  However, during these times, I am now able to easily remind myself of where I am and what is actually happening and very quickly I am relieved of my negative emotions.  And if I start to feel really overwhelmed, I simply go into the kitchen and start washing the dishes – ‘one blue cup at a time’.

Do you find your self spending a lot of time thinking about the past or wondering what might happen in the future?  Try taking it one blue cup at a time‘ today and focus on what is happening in each moment.  Look, feel, listen.  If you get distracted, don’t beat yourself up, it takes practice.  Just acknowledge that you are distracted and try to focus on your breathing or feeling a specific part of your body.  Close your eyes for a moment, open them and tell yourself everything that you see, it will help bring you back to the present.

You can only think one thought at a time.  You get to choose what that is.

If you feel comfortable, share your experience below.  If you have other techniques or strategies feel free to tell others in the comments below.  I would love to hear what you have to say.

Got a few minutes?  Check out Nathalie’s new website, Simply Be You.

Thank-you so much for spending this moment with me!

Melanie

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One Blue Cup At A Time – Part 2
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12 thoughts on “One Blue Cup At A Time – Part 2

  • 22 October, 2012 at 7:24 pm
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    Hi Melanie,
    Thank you for sharing such a momentous moment in your life 🙂
    I recall a very similar moment when I was at the sink doing dishes watching my kids play out in our back yard and my husband milk the cows on our dairy farm.
    I was going through chemo treatments at the time and felt overwhelmed with the absolute pleasure I was having in washing dishes and catching glances of my children alive and playing <3
    It was then I realized this is it…..right here right now….this moment in time. It is all I have……and it is extrodinary!

    later I found this poem that said so much to my heart…..

    Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
    Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.
    me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow
    Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.
    day, I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow,
    or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want,
    more than all the world, your return." – Mary Jean Iron

    I wish I had known you were suffering….things work out for a reason and the plan is perfect the way it is.

    thanks again for sharing your heart!
    Cindy xo

    Reply
    • 23 October, 2012 at 8:22 am
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      Thanks for sharing Cindy – you are a testament to living a full and grateful life in the face of what most of us believe would be the worst possible circumstances. That poem is beautiful – I will treasure it with my favorites! Although I wish I would have been brave enough to share with you then, I always felt that you were there for me. I could not have brought those babies into the world the way I did nor could I have cared for them as well as I did without you! You are definitely right, things work out as they do for a reason. I believe meeting you in a completely unexpected way was no accident!

      With love,
      Melanie

      Reply
  • 22 October, 2012 at 7:28 pm
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    Melanie, it is uncanny how often your posts give me the gift of WHAT I need to read, WHEN I need to read it. As you know, staying in the present is a huge challenge for me, but it is something I am working on and I appreciate the simplicity of Nathalie’s advice to you, to concentrate on that blue cup. Thank you for your blog, and thank you for being my friend – I am grateful for you!

    Reply
    • 23 October, 2012 at 8:37 am
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      Lisa – I think staying present is a challenge for all of us, but simply recognizing that already makes you more present! I am incredibly grateful for you and for your ability to be vulnerable and honest – you are very brave! The gifts come to you because you are ready to receive them!

      Love,
      Melanie

      Reply
  • 22 October, 2012 at 7:55 pm
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    Oh Mel! I had a smile the entire time reading this. Everything you have just stated is exactly what yoga has taught me.

    Yoga is about being in the present. Being mindful. Being mindful of everything you do. Like washing dishes. Like going for a walk (ever done a silent meditation walk? Amazing!). And perhaps most important, like eating. Be mindful of what we are eating.

    Like you said, this idea of being in the present and being mindful does not happen overnight. But once you experience it once, it becomes a lot easier. It’s about consistency (like meditation…it can be bloody tough at first! But consistency is key, eventually, it will happen).

    My yoga practice began as a physical activity but I opened myself up to the entire yoga practice (asana, breathing, meditation, diet) and soon without knowing, my perspective was changing. I still remember the day so clearly. Sitting at my desk at my ‘corporate job’ trying to maintain my focus on the task at hand and then, snap! All of a sudden, I looked outside and said out loud, “What am I doing here?”

    That above is exactly why I pursued teaching yoga. I wanted to share the knowledge. I wanted others to experience this. Learn to live in the present.

    Something I have told a few people who have been struggling with planning for the future or wishing they have done something different in the past is this: The past is in the past; but the future, it depends on the present. Be mindful. Be present. Be happy.

    Thank you for sharing this story! And Nathalie – thank you for sharing this brilliant strategy with my cuz!

    Lots of peace, love and happiness,
    Tracy

    Reply
    • 23 October, 2012 at 8:25 pm
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      You already know how proud I am of you for both following your heart and listening to that jazzy beat that drums away inside of you. But your wisdom at such a young age…wow! That still takes me by surprise sometimes! I think the story of how yoga evolved for you is a perfect one. Often when we start out trying to change our thinking and practicing being present it feels a bit more “physical”, forced and contrived. It certainly did for me. But you are also right that the more you do it, the easier it becomes and as a result…the more you do it. Because it does feel incredibly good to have those moments…even if it is just while you’re doing the dishes! It’s no different than trying to get good at an instrument, a sport or your job. It all takes practice and when you get it…it feels awesome!

      I just can’t tell you how much joy it brings me Tracy to know that you are out there in the world sharing your light. Thanks for leaving a piece of it with all of us.

      Love you lots!
      Melanie

      Reply
    • 4 November, 2012 at 1:19 pm
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      Tracy,

      May all the “Blue Cups” in this world remind us of being ” Present”! A girlfriend came over yesterday and we had coffee with “Blue Cups”. Our conversation became one of these deep discussions about life and the “Fear” that prevents us from going after what we want. I looked at the “Blue Cup” and instantly thought about being “Present” and Melanie’s great story. I knew exactly what to say to my friend. ” No need to be afraid because right now you are here and not there. Just think about what you are doing right now in this moment. No need to worry about tomorrow or the past, you are here in this moment and fear has no place here…”

      Simply,

      Nathalie

      http://www.simplybu.com

      Reply
  • 23 October, 2012 at 7:19 am
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    Hi everyone, thank you for sharing your own experiences. Its amazing to me how many people share similar challenges in life. It helps knowing you’re not alone.

    I struggle with staying focused and being grateful for each day and every moment. My natural tendency is to run through the days events and critique and analyze how it could have been different and better. I also spend a lot of time anticipating and preparing for “what may happen” today, tomorrow, next week. I know what I need to do to lead a healthier and peaceful life, but I can’t seem to get myself to a good place. Work or kids activities always take priority.

    It helps reading your blog Mel. So thanks for keeping me connected. I will continue to read my books and discipline myself to practice yoga and meditation everyday.

    Jen

    Reply
    • 23 October, 2012 at 8:48 pm
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      Hi Jen – thanks so much for sharing and I am so glad that reading the blog and the comments helps you. You are so right that you are not alone and realizing that is such a huge step. One that took me too many years to realize. As I said to Lisa earlier today, recognizing that you struggle with being present is already a huge step toward being present. Awareness of what is makes you present.

      So, when you come home tomorrow night and you find yourself running your day through your mental washing machine (not sure why that image just popped into my head…I can hear my washing machine running in the background right now though!) here is something you can try. Tell yourself you are thinking about your day right now. Say, you’re going to give yourself five or ten minutes (however long everyone will leave you to yourself) of quiet time to just think about your day. Go in the spare room if you need to. Sit and think about it all. The good, the bad, the funny, the annoying and the frustrating. Don’t judge or think about how you are going to deal with any of it tomorrow, just review. Right now you are thinking about your day. That’s it. Then mentally put it all in the dryer, turn it on and walk out of that room leaving it all behind. It will be sitting there in the morning ready to be folded (ie) dealt with when you are in the time and place to deal with it. As you walk back downstairs, count every stair as you go down. Right now, you are walking down the stairs and your day is drying in the spare room. All of that my dear friend, is being present. You obviously need that time to think about things and to decompress. Don’t judge yourself for doing it. Give it time and space, be present with it, then let it go and focus on what ever comes next. Even if it is running the kids somewhere or making dinner. You will find that by acknowledging those moments when you let your thoughts get the best of you, you will find better thoughts to think.

      For me it usually happens in the morning when I get ready for work. As you know I spend my early mornings on the computer, reading or writing. When I get upstairs and start to get ready for work, that’s when my mental reel starts spinning. When this happens, I acknowledge it (in my head it usually sounds like “whoa…what’s going on in there?” and pretty soon I am singing to myself or thinking about how much I love the smell of my shampoo!

      You are never alone.

      Much love,
      Melanie

      Reply
  • 23 October, 2012 at 8:46 am
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    Here is the poem in it entirety….sorry I missed some of it! 🙂

    Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
    Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.
    Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
    Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.
    One day, I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.” – Mary Jean Iron

    Reply
  • 24 October, 2012 at 11:01 am
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    Hi Mel

    I was sitting in the dentist’s chair yesterday when “one blue cup at a time” came to mind. I tried everything I could to forget about the pain I was about to endure. I concentrated on the future, the past and the music playing in the ceiling above my head. Nothing worked, I was stuck in the present moment “one tooth at a time”.

    I hope this brings you a smile.

    Love Dad

    Reply
    • 24 October, 2012 at 8:56 pm
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      Hi Dad – this definitely made me smile…and laugh a little. Not at your pain, but at your way of using humor to reflect on a yucky experience.

      The truth is we don’t always love our present moment; it might not be the most exciting or enjoyable, we might be hungry or tired, but the truth is the only time we have to change what is actually happening to us, to act, is in this moment. We always have choices.

      Endure the pain now…keep your teeth later!

      I hope your accepting moment wasn’t too painful.

      Love you!
      Melanie

      Reply

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