Be all there

March 31, 2017

Thoughts about being all there:

The sweet sound of the palm tress swaying in the early morning breeze is what I arose to while sipping on my hot mint tea while waiting for the sun to rise. I left my phone in my tent or I would have wanted to snap a couple photos of the crisp morning colors rising over the green covered mountains ahead of me. I rolled out a slightly discolored pink yoga mat on the pallets of a wooden stage. I could tell for years people have used these matts based on the dirt left on them from countless feet gliding across it into warrior one and back again to downward dog. I am a person of habit, I always chose the pink matt and throw it out in the same spot. I made sure I positioned myself directly where the sun would rise and I laid deep into my child’s pose stretching out my lower back from the aches of sleeping on the ground for weeks. I breathed in deeply the tropical smells around me. The Plumeria flower tree stood tall next to my left side as if she wanted me to notice her beauty. I breathed out in the same amount of seconds I breathed in. And I listened. I listened for the buzzing of those little bees that made their way to a certain tree at exactly 6:33am and would leave by sunrise at 7am. I listened for the early morning birds singing their lovely song to the earth below. And I listened to the rooster crow for the hundredth time since 4am wanting so badly everyone to awake and see what he sees when the earth is still. Thank you rooster, I needed your nudge. Slowly but surely, one by one my friends would roll out their yoga matts next to mine and start their practice with the warm sun on their faces. With sleepy eyes we say good morning without words of the tongue but with the gentleness of the heart. We started our day in silence and ended it with the silence of our breath, in and out in and out. I am convinced I would have not noticed the sounds and smells and what the sun felt like on my face if I was constantly looking at my phone, talking to others around me, or even not discipling myself to get up early (which always meant, going to bed early). Turning off and than turing inward towards the stillness of oneself is one sure way I’ve found to pay attention to the little things going around that I miss all too often.

Farm living slowed me down to hear the things that are so often missed. Those little moments of the bee’s working in the morning are some of the most important moments on earth. But we far to often look past them because they are small. They are not loud and booming the way the news is when I get in my car or the way a loud hello from a friend is. Those are all good but, I would beg suggest maybe it’s the small things, like the buzz of a bee working eagerly before the sunrises to get her daily amount of pollen in to the queen, or the slight growth of a new seed sprouting, or perhaps even the silent good morning from a sleepy friend sitting next to me that keeps the world going on and on. 

I mentioned in an earlier instagram post (about a month ago) I listened to a podcast about how mind wandering can be destructive to your life and relationships around you and how I would expand this thought of what I learned on the farm into a blog post. So here it is! Just took me a while to get around to writing it but it came out of me and I’m sharing these simple simple tips on how to be all here.

1.What are you hands doing?

This is the question I ask myself in every moment I feel my mind drifting. “Han, what are you hands doing right now?” This helps me nudge gently back to the current moment. I desire to practice being in the present more than I ever have. I guess as a child I never thought about practicing it because I didn’t need to, I just was there. But slowly through my growing up I find myself drifting if I don’t like the environment I find myself in. For example: when I was in class during college, if I thought the topic was very boring and going on longer than I thought was needed, I would wandering in my brain to a beach in Hawaii or being on a date with a guy I had a crush on at the time. I would spiral down and down the stair case of unending what if’s until I landed at the bottom of no return. I truly wonder how much more I would have retained from my college classes if I gently nudged my brain with grace back to what were my hands doing.

In Hawaii this happened a lot. The first two weeks were thoughts like, what if I lose business because I came here? What if I don’t answer those emails in time? What if I should have spent my money on something else? What if my community forgets about me? What if what if what if. We spend on average 6 1/2 years of worrying in our LIFETIME! ( I heard this stat from a friend who actually did research on this topic). So instead of drifting to worry or better places in my head I focused on what my hands were doing. If I was cleaning the dishes, well than I was cleaning the dishes. If I was talking to a new friend, I focused on my hands at rest and found myself with a mind who could listen. If I was answering emails I wasn’t thinking that I should be in the ocean, I was thinking what were my hands doing. If I was cooking, oh I enjoyed every moment of what my hands were doing. These two beautiful hands of mine tell me a lot about myself. But if I can’t focus on what they are doing and always off in dream world than I would miss a lot of what this world has for me. The beauty of these hands is that they slow me down. They can only do ONE thing at one time. ONE!!! They have single vision. They know they are always present and they are constantly teaching the brain (that is wildly too progressive sometimes for our own goods) to do one thing at a time, not five.

2. Do what makes you come alive – at least once a day.

This can be harder said than done but go with me on this one. Some people are for social justice rights ( I guess I am one of those ), others are feminists, still others are for protecting the environment and, others have a political bone in them. I am a dreamer to my core, a wildly passionate advocate for helping others to find what makes them their heart leap with excitement, a hobby enthusiast. I have about ten different hobbies and they all keep me going sane. I understand not everyone needs a hobby but I do know with my whole heart everyone has one or two things that makes them more of the human they are suppose to be. For me it’s swimming in water, any kind of water. A pool, pond, river, lake, sea, or ocean. It’s not a deep concept and it doesn’t make much sense, it’s the thing I cannot explain that makes me more me. I commit to taking trips and a large sum of my budget to the water because I know my body and soul crave it just as much as food. Other things that make me come alive are: are making things with my hands, freshly cut flowers, having a table full of people to cook for, the way wind catches white curtains and blows them on a warm summers evening, a fresh new book I open know nothing about, working in the earth, organizing, sharing a cup of mint tea and dark chocolate with a close friend before bed, and morning walks. It’s from the littlest things to the biggest things that help us be more in tune with the environment around us. Life will keep going, bosses will keep running our lives but we don’t have to let them. We get to choose what we do with our time. We have a choice to choose beauty for a little part of our day or the whole thing.

My two months in living in Hawaii I made sure, no matter how hard it was, to be in water everydayday. Okay.. some days let’s be honest, it was in the shower. But almost every single day I got my body into salt water to swim in the waves, float with my eyes closed, or laugh with a friend while we catch our breath in between waves. It was the only thing I committed to on my trip. The results were endless. So endless I really cannot explain them, they just keep going and going inside my blood stream. Happy, happy, happy.

I challenge you to find one thing that makes you come alive and do it. Carve time in your daily schedule to do. You will not regret it. Take a photo and use the hashtag #becomingalive. Let other people into your aliveness.

3. Leave your phone at home

GAH the bane of our millennial existence. For me technology is a love hate relationship. I need you but I hate you all the same. It’s exhausting yet inspiring. Oh I have a feeling this will be a constant tension my whole I better figure out how to deal with it but also without it. Far to often I found myself reaching for my phone while living on the farm but it was no where to be seen. “I just wanted to look at the time” I told myself. But I could see right through that desire to be known, seen, heard through this piece of device. I wanted to check instagram, snapchat, or facebook. I wanted to just see how many people were watching my story or how many likes I got on the last post. You ALL know what I am talking about, the addictive feeling of being connected through social media. I recently watched a video that went viral on Facebook about how there is a release of hormones when we get a “like” on some form of social media. We all like the feeling of well..being liked!!! It’s not wrong but I questioned it a lot while living on the farm. For a couple weeks my computer wouldn’t turn on, my phone would shut off randomly, it was hard to get a charge. People who lived there for months mentioned how consistently they have seen technology act up and not work while on the farm but once they left it be perfectly fine. Once I heard that I just stopped. I stopped trying so hard for everyone to know what I was doing. I stopped posting. I stopped scrolling. I stopped. And I got to know the people I was doing life with on a different level. I left my phone in the tent and I washed dishes with Dan and heard about his life on the road. I picked basil to make pesto with Mriel and learned about her childhood growing up in Chicago. I ran down to the beach with Natalie and swam in the ocean till the sunset in silence with her. I watered plants for two hours in the morning and listened to what they needed from me. More water some days, certain leaves on another, and some had just enough. Any one reading this knows I still love being on my phone. I love talking on the phone with my friends across the country or snap chatting my mother funny faces or sharing my recent session of a beautiful wedding.  I am not against technology!! But I am against it interrupting the relationships that are in front of my face.

Next time you go out to dinner with friends, leave your phone at home. It will be in the same spot when you return. You can bet that someone else will have a phone in case of an  emergency. Someone else will take a photo and send it to you if you really want it bad enough. Or just be all there. Don’t take a photo of your dinner, don’t google something you need to figure out in that moment, don’t answer every message while someone important is looking in your eyes. Leave it at home.

4. Listen to the sounds around you

In my opening paragraph I relived my morning routine with the smells and sounds around me. Some call this mindfulness. To be aware of what is going on around you at all times. I’ve been trying to practice this for months and it’s hard but so beautiful when you notice it all. Whether you are at a doctors office waiting in the lobby, a line at the grocery store, or laying in your bed before you fall asleep, stop and listen. Listen to the smallest of sounds. Become aware of your breath. And listen. It’s simple but powerful. In this same NPR podcast, that I will give a link to below, they mentioned how before technology our brains had downtime, a lot. We were okay being bored. Say we were sitting on a train or in a bus or in a car to our morning commute. Before cell phones we let our minds be free. We let them process our day or think about an idea or a relationship. All unconsciencly, without trying our minds were able to be bored. We had time to process. But now with the constant screen in our face, our brains don’t have downtime to just think. To listen to the noises, to people watch, to process what happened during the day. Some of us may get that for a couple minutes before we fall asleep but some of us fall asleep watching netflix, never allowing our minds to just be. When I heard that I was never so much aware of how much my brain needs it’s time to be than in that moment. So I stopped picking up my phone while sitting at the doctors office. Or in Hawaii I would intentionally go to the beach to people watch or listen to the sounds around me. I didn’t bring a book or my phone or nor would I go with other people. Just me by myself, with my thoughts, and the worlds sounds.

5.Listen to your body

The final and simplest bullet point is this: listen to your body. Guys it’s so simple but so hard for some of us. I am the type of person who goes and goes and goes and forgets to eat lunch. Mind you I am in love with food but for some odd reason my to do list trumps food some days. When that happens it’s a sad day in the body of Hannah. My “boss”/ the dude who told us what to do everyday on the farm, Peter, was the first one to invite me to listen to what my body needs deeper. During my introduction, we were walking around the dirt covered ground, him telling me about work expectations, showing me what each tree was, explaining how the place worked. I asked what time I needed to get up for work the next morning and he says with a gingerly smile, “ well when your body wakes up”. And moved right along. I was like no no peter really what time? And he said it again, “when your body decides to wake up. Sometimes you just need to listen to your body, if you need more sleep than come find us when you wake”. HA! Like that would work anywhere else in our country. Of course Hawaii is in their own time zone and culture so it could work here. Throughout my stay I kept hearing, if you are hungry eat, if you are tired take a nap, if you are feeling like swimming than go swim! For years I have ignored the needs of my body to get one more thing done, to write one more paper, to push myself through an all nighter one more time. All for what? Headaches from not eating on time, stomach aches because I’m so stressed out, fogginess because the lack of sleep. Mind you, I believe we need to push our bodies to accomplish incredible things. Imagine if athletes never pushed themselves, we wouldn’t have the Olympic athletes we do. Or if Steve Jobs decided to stay in bed instead of getting up to design technology. But I bring this point up because I desire for a balance of the two. We are all given these beautiful bodies with flesh and bones that need at least 8 hours of sleep a night, food and water daily to keep things going. That is why I am so drawn to the table and to food because it’s a simple concept, food and water. That is why I am drawn to the person of Jesus is because he came as a man eating and drinking. It’s human to eat, yet for so many in our world and cities it’s not a reality. So for me to ignore my body to just get one more thing finished on my to do list well, is not the way I want to live anymore.

Our bodies tell us things to be weary of, who we are falling in love with, if something deeper is going on yet, we ignore the signs. I beg you to listen closer. We are not just spirits and souls, our bodies are just as important, possibly more important than we think they are.

In conclusion, be where you are at, do what you love, leave your phone at home, listen to the sounds around you, and don’t ignore your body.

Podcasts/ book :

NPR Podcast Simply Happy :

Rob Bell Podcast Importance of Bordem:


Millennial video:


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The Hannah Rose Gray Team is a boutique photography team aimed on documenting your family legacy with authenticity, fun, and passion! We believe in making friends over clients, creating an unique experience for each friend that comes our way, and creating art that will last generations.


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