We are bombarded daily by messages about preparing for the future and pleas to honour or heal the past. It’s ironic, then, that one of the most powerful self-help messages being passed around right now is about living in the moment.
The idea is straight forward and is summed up in many quotes and wise old sayings. I like the Star Wars version best: Obi-Wan Kenobi says: “But Master Yoda said I should be mindful of the future” and Qui-Gon Jinn replies: “But not at the expense of the moment.”
I have struggled putting this idea of mindfulness, presence, attention, concious living (call it what you will) into practice. I suddenly realized one day (quite recently, because of the effects of a new anti-migraine medication) that while I understood mindfulness intellectually, much of my life-long nervousness was rooted in never forgetting (and frequently re-living) the failures and embarassments of the past coupled with a strong fear of failing and being embarassed in the future. And those nerves had been crippling me, intellectually, professionally and socially. I was always afraid of making the wrong choice and everyone close to me was affected by it. And the moment those nerves were gone (thank you migraine meds), I had that lightbulb moment. Suddenly aware of what I no longer carried in my thoughts, I experienced the purity of a single moment for possibly the first time since my children were born (it’s impossible not to be 100% in the moment in such a time) and became able to notice and pull back when my focus drifted too far out of the present.
It was an epiphany, pure and simple. It changed my life in a matter of, well, moments.
If there is one thing I could wish for everyone in the world today, yesterday and forever it would be this: that everyone could put away the stories created by the past and the idea that it is good enough to build something for the future. We cannot change the past, we have no idea what will come in the future and yet we let them rule our lives, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34.
Do the things you love to do. Today, now… Put away memories of what happened before. Don’t worry about connecting today and tomorrow, just for a little while. You may be surprised what grows into the future when it all comes from a place deep within in honest response to what is going on around you.
There is lots–libraries and internets full–of material currently being written on the subject of mindfulness and attention. My introduction to it came, oddly enough, from an Aldous Huxley novel, “Island,” which examines the observations of an outsider amidst a fictional ‘primitive’ society that teaches living in the moment to its children. I wrote out and taped the book’s bird cry to the wall above my desk: “Attention, here and now boys” to keep it in my awareness until my mind could truly apply it. The confession about my nerves, by the way, is made possible by two things: first, it seems to fit the moment; and second, a beautiful friend of mine was recently very candid about her battle with mental illness in a very public way. Love you Jen. This one is for you. (And yes, I re-used a feature photo.)