A couple of weeks ago, my husband came home from the feed store with six baby ducks. This happens every year around Easter time—he brings home either chicks or ducks or both–and we raise them for their eggs. The yellow-brown fluff balls, so tiny that you could nestle one in the palm of your hand, seem so fragile.
And this year their vulnerability was proven. A skunk broke into their coop one night and killed all but one. Tragic. But let me tell you about the one! After the incident (and she was no longer super-tiny) we put her in the coop with the grown-up ducks and chickens. Every morning when I let them out to feed them, the big ones run over her, smashing her little body to the ground for a second or two. Then she tumbles and rolls off a high-for-her ledge to get to the food and water. The first couple of days, the adult birds even pecked her with their big beaks.
Yet, she perseveres.
What a life lesson! I have no idea what a duck thinks, or how one thinks, but I do know that morning after morning, I watch her get beat up. I see her matter-of-factly overcoming obstacles to her existence.
My favorite yoga teacher in the world, Asiana Harper, taught a yoga class last week with a theme of Perseverance through Presence. I’ve been thinking about those words ever since. They ring absolutely true to me right now as I begin to chafe under the stay-at-home order. On the one hand, I feel tremendously grateful for my circumstances during this challenging time on our planet. On the other hand, there has been a (non-virus related) death in my family and I yearn to be with my people.
The roughest experiences in my life have always taught me the greatest lessons. I bet you’ve found that too. One of those lessons is that I can survive by living one moment at a time. By staying in the “right now” and out of the “why me?” and “what if?,” I can persevere through presence. In Qoya, we ask the question, “Whatever is happening in your life right now, are you willing to open your heart to it?”
But how? We yoga teachers like to remind people to focus on their breath because it actually works! But another way for me to be present is to do something that takes 100 percent of my attention, and that does not include hours of vegging out in front of the television. It’s the difference between doing something to take my mind off my situation and doing something where my mind is so all-in that it is not registering anything beyond the present moment. For example, a creative project or learning something new. Calling a dear friend and truly listening to what she has to say. Or taking a walk and noticing what I can perceive with each of my five senses.
I’m assuming this all comes pretty naturally to a duck. For me, it’s a work in progress. And I know it sounds cliché, but we really are never guaranteed anything except the exact moment we are living in so we should attempt to fully experience each one. As I write this during a holiday season that celebrates liberation and resurrection, I am reminded that persevering through presence offers us true freedom.