Every day in the evening a group of children come out to play in my colony. They scream, they laugh, they jump, and are all really, really happy. I often sit in my balcony, sipping tea, and look at them. I find myself smiling and there’s a sense of calm that takes over. No matter how hectic my day has been, this little ritual soothes my senses and fills me with peace. It’s a moment I enjoy. I don’t think of anything else when I’m watching the children play. For that half an hour every day, I’m living in the moment and am truly happy.
This ritual has made me realize and appreciate the power of living in the present moment. Life happens and unfolds in the present. But often we let it slip away as we ruminate over our past and worry about the future. It’s our nature to never live in the moment. When we’re home, we think about all the work we need to get done. When we’re at work, we fantasize about all the trips we want to take. Buddhists call this “monkey minds” – we go from thought to thought just like monkeys swing from tree to tree.
As cliché as it might sound, choosing to live in the past or the future not only robs you of enjoyment today, it robs you of truly living your life in general. The only important moment is the present moment. But we are either filled with regrets about our past or anticipating what the future holds for us that we completely forget to enjoy all that’s happening around us at that particular moment.
Too often we are also stuck in the busyness of life. We are constantly multi-tasking and distracted.
When we are eating, we are checking our emails or sending texts, or mindlessly scrolling through social media. We make plans to meet a friend only to have work calls interrupt our conversation and take away from the moment. Or worse still, we start taking pictures of food and posting it with elaborate captions on social media. When we are walking, we’re focused on the number of steps we are taking rather than our surroundings. I’m guilty of all this. In the chaos of life, I sometimes forget to stop and enjoy the little things. It’s my daily ritual of watching the children play that reminds me to “stop and smell the roses”.
Oprah Winfrey said living in the moment means letting go of the past and not waiting for the future. It means living your life consciously, aware that each moment you breathe is a gift. Truer words were perhaps never spoken. The older we get, some of our most precious assets will be the memories that we have created throughout the course of our lives. And memories can only be made when you are focused on each and every moment of your life.
When I’m living in the moment, there’s a dramatic change in the way I feel towards life. I feel more content, more in control, and I also feel grateful and blessed. These are all feel-good factors that make me better able to appreciate my family and friends, my good health, and even simple things like being able to enjoy an impromptu lunch with a friend or go out for a swim after work. But living in the moment isn’t something that comes naturally to me. I’m working hard at it, making a conscious effort, till it becomes a habit.
What works for me is that I constantly remind myself that there is no guarantee on the number of moments one gets to experience in life. This has been an important realization for me. Since no one knows when the next moment of their life is going to be taken away from them, isn’t it a good idea to make the most of the one you have right now? This has served as a helpful reminder for me to try and enjoy the present moment. If I’m talking to a friend, I make sure s/he has my undivided attention. If I’m playing with my dog, then I’m fully involved in just that one activity. I also don’t take work home anymore, ensuring I talk to my husband, enjoy the smell of food cooking in the kitchen or simply water my plants and enjoy that soothing activity.
It hasn’t been easy. I was someone who was always lost in thoughts. Unless I was asleep, I was never present anywhere because my mind would always be elsewhere, mulling over negativity and struggles of the past, or becoming anxious and fearful of the future. This made me highly unstable – I was constantly on edge and had erratic mood swings – and I was also very unhappy. It took my brother’s almost fatal bike accident for me to come to the stark realization that I was wasting my life by not being fully present and available to people and experiences around me.
You don’t have to contemplate death or have life changing experiences to learn the value of now. Life is made up of moments and it’s by enjoying these moments that we collectively build a good life. Despite our hectic schedules and insane workloads, we can pause and find some time to take a deep breath and just let our minds be still for a while. This is what I do when I watch children play in my neighborhood. And now I find I don’t have to force myself to be still. I am still and very present in the moment. All you have to do is focus on something you enjoy and find peaceful and train your mind to let go of what you can’t control and give all your attention to what you can – which is the present moment.
The writer loves books, movies, pizza, and the weekend and believes there is nothing a cup of tea can’t solve. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.