When my daughter was two or three-years old, I used to take her to Inokashira Koen, a beautiful park near our house in Tokyo. She was, like all kids of that age, intensely present, alert and fascinated by everything in her little world.
Living in the moment means living your life consciously, deeply aware that each breath is a gift. – Oprah Winfrey
She would take in every minute detail in the park — the ladybird crawling up the blade of grass, the woodpecker perched in the tree above, the airplane flying overhead.
On one particular visit, I remember her excitedly squealing ‘oof oof’ (her baby word for dog) upon spotting one in the distance.
Her shrill voice snapped me out of my reverie. I became aware for the first time that we had actually arrived in the park.
My body had been there for several minutes but, deeply absorbed in thinking about this and that, I had just ‘arrived’.
And this is how we live.
This is how my days used to look. Maybe you can relate?
During breakfast, I’d be deep in thought about my to-do list for the day… go to the bank, stop at the chemist, check the oil and tyre pressure. At some point, I’d look down at the empty cornflakes bowl in front of me. I had eaten the whole bowl without noticing.
Then I’d be on my way to work. My body would be driving the car but I was wasn’t there. I was a million miles away… replaying a conversation I’d had with a friend the week before. The sky and the trees along the route were beautiful but there was no-one there to notice them.
Then my body would be at work. Again, I was far away— counting the days until my next holiday, wondering whether to take the blue tent or the green tent for next week’s camping trip.
Robert Holden sums it up beautifully in this quote:
“If you think there is something missing from your life, it is probably YOU”
Life is here now. Every moment is fresh, vibrant and alive but we don’t notice the wonder that is all around us. We live in the not here, not now and LIFE passes us by.
People are more interested in the past and future than they are in the present moment—more focused on where they have been or where they are trying to get to than on what’s happening right here, right now.
We are always looking for a better moment than this one—a more interesting, more exciting, more fulfilling now. We totally overlook the infinite richness that is present here and now.
The trouble is that past and future exist only as concepts in your head. They have no life of their own.
And yet, they are given more importance than the direct and immediate experience of LIFE itself… the cool breeze against the skin, the smell of pine in the air, the sound of the birds singing.
When we live in our heads, we miss out big time— not only on the beauty and wonder of life, but also on inner peace, contentment and the feeling of connection.
Our inability to stop overthinking gives rise to conditions such as worry, anxiety and depression.
Always striving for something other than what the moment offers, we swim against the current. Life itself is simple and uncomplicated but we make it much harder than it need be.
Living in the moment is the solution to most of our problems.
Children are so full of light and life because they live in the moment. The show up for life.
As we get older and become bogged down in the world of work, bills and responsibilities, we naturally have a lot more on our minds. The complex demands of a busy mind distract us from the simplicity and immense richness of our present moment experience.
Living on autopilot. we lose our connection with the spark of life within. Consciously choosing to be more present is the key to waking up to a more vibrant, more alive experience of life.
Biologically, humans are designed to live slowly, simply and close to nature. As life has become faster and more complex, we have become more and more disconnected from ourselves, from each other and from the natural world. This has resulted in a tsunami of disorders such as stress, anxiety and depression.
Learning to rest in the peace and simplicity of the present moment is an antidote to the stresses of modern life — a healing balm for the soul. We will talk about the benefits of meditation a little later.
Here is an excerpt from my book “Awaken The Happy You”, describing the first time I tried the “walking meditation” practice on a mindfulness retreat.
“Being attentive to the intricate patterns and colours of the leaves, the spider busy at work on its web, feeling the texture of the grass under the soles of the feet and the gentle breeze on the skin, smelling the soil, the herbs, the fragrant moss, listening to the gentle crackle of twigs underfoot and the rustle of the wind in the trees – transformed what, at first sight, appeared to be a lovely garden, into Narnia, the magical kingdom!”
When we live in autopilot mode, caught up in our busy minds, we fail to notice just how rich and miraculous life really is. Living in the moment can fill you with a renewed sense of wonder, awe and appreciation for life.
Engage your senses.
Eat your breakfast mindfully. Chew slowly and give your full attention to the texture and taste of the food in your mouth. You will probably discover that cornflakes actually taste amazing!
When you’re brushing your teeth, focus on the smell of the toothpaste, the sensation of the brush pressing against your teeth, the temperature of the water as you gargle.
The mind will stray over and over into past and future— and that’s fine. When it does, gently bring your attention back to the present moment. Feel the weight of your body on the chair or the physical sensations in the soles of your feet.
One major obstacle to living in the moment is remembering. You’ll find that the mind wanders all the time. You can easily go for extended periods of time without even noticing you are not present.
Surround yourselves with reminders—an piece of string around your wrist, a stone or crystal in your pocket, a post-it note on the breakfast table or bathroom mirror, a buddha hanging from the car mirror.
The moment you notice one of your cues, stop and gently direct your attention away from the mind. Notice what is going on right now, inside you and in your surroundings. Engage all your senses. They are the 5 wonders of the world!
Meditation is a great tool to help quiet the mind and be more present. There are many forms of meditation out there but, for simplicity and ease, I’d recommend mindfulness.
As mentioned before, much of our thinking happens on autopilot. Meditation helps you to become consciously aware of your thoughts. When you watch the mind objectively, as a neutral observer, you naturally and effortlessly become anchored in the present moment.
Over time, you may recognise that who you really are is far greater than the thinking mind. In the depths of your being, there is a still, silent, unchanging place that meditation helps reveal—a place that is intensely present, peaceful and alive. This is the ‘missing’ experience we are all looking for.
The only thing that ever pulls you out of the present moment is your thoughts, which are almost always past or future based.
Get into the habit of noticing when your thoughts pull you out the moment and gently bring your attention back to NOW.
It doesn’t matter what the thoughts are about. The moment you are aware, you are faced with a simple choice—keep thinking or come back to the moment. You’ll find that, within a few seconds, your mind will be off again, creating more trouble.
Then you patiently and compassionately reel it back in again… a thousand times if need be. Every time you come back to being present, you reinforce the new habit.
Another good practice for living in the moment is to choose a location in your body, your feet perhaps, and use it to anchor your attention in the present moment.
Put your attention on your feet right now. What do you feel? Warmth? Tingling? Explore the sensation of your feet coming into contact with the ground. What does the outside of your foot feel like? The inside?
What happens to your mind when you give your feet your full attention?
Do you have any problems in this moment? Is there anything missing?
Make a conscious effort to enjoy where you are right now, whatever is happening.
Become aware of your surroundings — the patterns of light in the sky, the sensation of the air against your skin, the sound of the wind in the trees.
Notice and appreciate the miracle of life that is all around you. Allow everything to be as it is in this one unique, precious moment.
It is easy to become so caught up in the 100,000 thoughts that the average person has each day that you fail to notice the simple presence that is always present, in and around you.
The present moment is a gift— an oasis of peace, a place of refuge in a crazy world.
Use the 6 keys above to establish an intimate relationship with the present moment, with your self.
The joy, playfulness and zest for life that you knew as a kid is still there inside you. Living in the present is the key to getting it back.