Personal Writing

Be here. Now. Wait, what?

I’m not gonna lie: I’m tired.

I’m tired physically and creatively.

So tired, in fact, that I’m dealing with my second round of flu/cold/COVID-like symptoms in three weeks. The nature of the way I work, the way my mind moves at ludicrous speed nearly all of the time I’m awake and much of the time I’m asleep or lying awake for long periods of time most nights, means that my body often needs to literally fall apart to give me the opportunity to slow down.

I don’t say that from a point of pride; it’s simply my reality. Despite working on it, I haven’t yet found a good solution for mentally slowing down, for getting comfortable being still. I skip from thought to thought to thought, endlessly knitting seemingly unconnected long-ago memories, threads of ideas, snippets from books, songs, podcasts and movies I’ve enjoyed together. The second I wake up, my mind moves to potential content for this blog, for Daily Dose, for The Arts Partnership, for my (re)Discover Your Spark courses and workshops. And this is a continuous cycle.

So I’m tired.

And I don’t think this pace is sustainable.

To be fair, it never has been, but it feels particularly out of control of late.

I’m making my most serious attempt at daily meditation to date. I’m on week five of nearly daily meditations with a 21-day program I purchased last year from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey all around unlocking creativity—not necessarily the artistic kind but the “live a better, more present life” kind. In my case, it’s serving both points. It’s about 10 minutes of talking and 10 minutes of meditation. My intention is to just keep repeating the three week program over and over.

I love this time, I really do. It’s quiet, it’s often done in the dark of early morning and it’s the closest I come to being still. But there’s nothing mentally still about it. In the 10 minutes of pure meditation, my mind criss-crosses the universe of my nearly 50 lived years. It bops between my grandparents’ houses in Bowman, ND, or Rye, NY, to a brief moment on stage, to a fundraising conversation with a donor, to playing Monopoly with my dad, to the birth of my brothers, to shopping down Peascod Street in Windsor, England, to how many carrots are left in the refrigerator, to if I donated that sweater I haven’t thought about since last winter, to…

Hardly still, is it?

A recent centering thought in the mediation was “I rest with comfort and ease in the present moment.”

I am really in love with the present moment. I am comfortable and easy with it. My life feels full, joyful and rich; I truly have more than I ever dreamed of. So why can’t I just slow down and “rest with comfort and ease in the present moment?”

Maybe, as per usual, I’m thinking about it all wrong. Maybe I need to reconsider what it means to me to be “in the now.”

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

My “now” is a trillion piece puzzle that I’m endlessly constructing minute by minute. There’s no rush to finish it, no demand that I pick up the right piece to connect to another, no timer ticking in the background, adding pressure to the process, because there’s no way to finish this puzzle—it’s a lifetime pursuit. Often I think I’ve sussed out what the larger picture is, only to watch it shift and evolve into something else. I find the pieces I had put together no longer fit the way they used to or the way I expected them to.

And that’s actually ok with me.

I’m happier than I have ever been. I love my life; I don’t take it for granted…and I want more.

I’ve a striver, a dreamer, a seeker of more. Not because I’m unhappy with my current state but because that’s how I’m built. I’m voracious in my questing even as I stop and take in the beauty of what is happening right in this moment.

So, yes, I’m tired, and I’m sick…again. But I’m also grateful to be here, drinking a mug of Barry’s Irish Tea and eating warm-from-the-oven Grasmere Gingerbread I’ve been baking since getting home from England last month (it’s nothing like our gingerbread, but it’s INCREDIBLE. This recipe is quite close to the real thing.)

One of the great joys of writing this blog is that it often moves in directions I couldn’t possibly anticipate. I thought I was going to write about how frazzled I am and then ask you for the ways you quiet your mind when it goes into hyper-drive. Instead, what has emerged is the notion that the way we work, the way we’re “constructed” is perfect as is. We can enhance our natural mental tendencies and gifts with meditation, exercise, breathing techniques and the like, but we don’t need to be “fixed.” We’re not broken.

I don’t suppose I’ll ever have a moment of mental utter stillness. In fact, I hope I don’t because that’s not who I am. I like the way my mind navigates my past, present and future. I like how it connects, at lightening speed, seemingly unrelated ideas and concepts. I like where it’s taken me, and I’m excited about where I’m going because of it.

Stop examining your life and comparing it to what others say about theirs. If there are people who can clear their minds and sit in the empty vastness of the universe for minutes on end, good for them. That’s not me. They have different gifts than I do. And you have different gifts, too. They might not look like anyone else’s—isn’t that a blessing? Isn’t that what makes you YOU?

Meditate. Don’t meditate. Rather than judging it, get fascinated by the wondrous ways your brain navigates through and with your life. Enjoy the present moment. Linger in the past. Anticipate the future. Bake some gingerbread. Drink another mug of tea.

Stop thinking you need fixing, that you are broken or that you’re doing it wrong. There’s no such thing. Every moment is leading to the next and the next after that. Keep working to evolve your path, and certainly change what’s no longer serving you. But do that because you want to, because you get to, not because you’re not just absolutely extraordinary as you are right this minute.

Let your definition of “now” be exactly right for you.

Dayna Del Val is on a mission to help others (re)discover the spark they were born with through her blog and newsletter, her professional talks and the (re)Discover Your Spark retreats she leads. Dayna works with people to help them not just identify and articulate their dreams but to develop a framework to get going on the pursuit of those dreams—today, in the next few months and for the years ahead. She's at the intersection of remarkable and so, so ordinary, but she knows that pretty much everyone else is, too. She's excited to be sharing this extraordinary journey with you.


  • Tim Mathern

    Your phrase “And I don’t think this pace is sustainable.” within your insightful article struck me! As you described the endless streaming and activities of your mind and life I thought “hey, this is me too as now and forever back as I remember”.

    But then I realized I am much older than you. I have not died or crashed-I am busy in work, family, and community . So maybe the pace is sustainable, it is a matter of how you work with it.

    • Dayna Del Val

      Well, as you can imagine, this note delights me to no end, Senator. It also gives me great hope because you are right—this is ABSOLUTELY how you work, and look at all you’ve accomplished, and think of all that’s yet to come! Onwards and upwards we go!!!

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