Updated: Aug 4, 2019
“Live in the present moment” is a really washed out piece of advice. It’s unrealistic for many; we’re fundamentally flawed human beings with a thinking brain that gets easily caught up somewhere in between the depression, regrets, and memories of our past and the anxieties, dreams and desires for our future. Sure, living constantly in the present moment is the ideal, but how can a regular person like you or myself even hope to achieve such a simple state of consciousness? Not in this lifetime.
Even the most devout Buddhist or experienced monk, someone disciplined in their training, cannot always maintain a constant state of pure, uninterrupted awareness focused on the here and now. It’s simply part of the trials and tribulations of being embodied. What we can do, and many have, is sneak a taste of it.
I’ve glimpsed it many times: realizing the beauty of nature when I reach the summit of a mountain, a reward after the effort of ascension; seeing my dog find absolute joy in simply running in untethered freedom; sitting on my surfboard over glassy morning waters, allowing a wave or two to slip by, as I’m begging to linger in this state for just a little bit longer. It’s the moments that are so powerful, one might even aliken it to God, or Universe, or Source. Whatever you call it, it awakens something in your depths, something that’s always been there but only creeps to the surface every so often. It’s fleeting, but for a small time it enraptures you. For me, it’s the pure and unquestioned knowing that I am connected. I am a part of something so great, something beyond myself.
Of course, we all strive to live in that moment. It’s fucking fantastic. After you’ve tasted it, you’ve seen it, you’ve experienced it, whatever it is, it is now real, it’s out there, and it’s accessible. So how do we remain in these moments? How can we drag them out a second or two longer? How can we sequester the nagging obligations of jobs, families, and commitments? How do we push out fears and anxieties and why should we forget about our dreams and aspirations all in the hopes to open up space for this ineffable sensation of presentness?
We seek it out because within that moment, we encounter unadulterated joy. Joy is the driving force that keeps us marching on. It is, however, hard work, but we’re allowed to modify. We can expand this idea… forget living in the moment, and try to live within the confines of just one day.
Tomorrow when you wake up, stay in bed two minutes longer. Close your eyes and walk through your day, all your errands and commitments; imagine who you will see, acknowledge when you will get downtime. Whatever you’re not looking forward to, reframe it in your mind until you find some sliver of a silver lining. Even if you have to create your own circumstances: playing a good podcast while sitting in traffic or rewarding yourself with a latte after your doctor’s appointment; it’s okay to trick your mind. For the parts of your day that you do enjoy, revel in them. Close your laptop while you eat your lunch, put your phone away while walking your dog. If you’ve found yourself 30 minutes where you can watch a TV show, luxuriate in it. I’ve found that with this practice, in both the good moments and the bad, I am practicing gratitude; grateful for the experiences that remind me why I am here or simply enjoying the little moments, unsaturated and pure. Then, at night, when you’re back in your bed, think of two or three things that you did well. End your day feeling proud and accomplished, drift off to sleep, and begin anew.
The trick to all this is to remember that although you woke up with a plan, a vision for how the day would go, issues may arise and opportunities could come out of left field. When this happens and things don’t go as expected, remind yourself that nothing needs to be so precious. It’s okay to not take things so seriously and have fun with yourself. By enjoying each day, you’re subtly training yourself to enjoy various moments within the day, ultimately making the mysterious and esoteric “present moment” more accessible. We’re chasing joy here. We’re practicing positivity to elevate our own mood. None if this means that we forget our past or don’t think about our future. The past teaches us where we come from, while the future opens up a world of possibility; we use both to frame the circumstances of today. We’re simply learning to live more consciously, so that when we get that next hit of the here and now, we will recognize it immediately. We’ve been practicing, afterall, so we’ve learned to revel in these moments so that maybe, if we’re lucky, it will linger for us, capture us, and preserve us, until it comes around again.