“Take a deep breath in,” Kevin said. “Now, three extra sips. Sip, sip, SIP! Hold.”

My lungs burst.

“Hold it!!”

“Now exhale the content of your lungs. More, more. You’re not empty yet!”

I’m pretty sure mine were. I felt like I was a few seconds away from passing out and dominoing into the lady standing next to me.

“Ok, that’s good enough. Breathe in half, and then breathe out everything behind you and ahead of you,” Kevin said.

“Too often, we think about good memories from the past or the good things ahead of us. We forget to remain in the present and explore where we are and what we feel now. Resist the temptation to join with your thoughts when they drift away from the present.”

Goddamn, I love yoga.

Yesterday, I was ripping a few intervals, some boilerplate intensive aerobic work: 4 minutes Zone 4, 1 minute Zone 5 for 15 minutes—naturally, three sets.

By the third set, the heat began to bite. My legs didn’t feel as snappy, salt was visible on my black kit, and when I flipped by Garmin screen to check the temperature, it registered 96F. Welcome to July.

After the first lift to Zone 5 in the last set, I noticed the watts no longer came so easily. I had to dig to keep 420 on the screen for a minute, and my legs protested the transition back to Zone 4. I considered pulling the plug.

But then Kevin’s words drifted back to me. This pain and disappointment in my physical unraveling is also part of the training. You might think pain is the sensation I should center on because that would make me tougher, but that’s not what Kevin was getting at.

He means whatever you’re feeling now, feel it – don’t join with thoughts that take you away from what you’re feeling and doing now.

I knew why I wanted to escape—I was in pain. When a position gets spicy in yoga, the instructor will say, “Great your edge like you would a friend.”

What a useful thought. Still, the utility of the call to remain present runs deeper than as a tool for discomfort. It’s how to unlock your best life.

The tendency to join with every thought that emerges continually handicaps our experience because we’re numb to whatever we’re doing and feeling now. Combining that inclination with smartphones always renders the present moment inferior.

Not a big deal?

Is it a big deal that no matter what you’re doing, it’s never good enough to warrant your full attention?

Maybe not.

Or maybe the answer to that restless emptiness inside isn’t reproducing the past or just getting to that thing up ahead but fully being where you are now.

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