Often we worry too much about the past or what is going to happen in the future. Both of these preoccupations don’t help us at all. Past is history. It is gone. Nothing can bring it back. Future is a mystery. We don’t know about even the next moment. Usually, we get so absorbed in the past or worry about the future that we fail to enjoy the present. As a matter of fact, present is a gift and we should try to savour every moment. Most of us think that there is endless time to live. However, we never know as to which moment is going to be our last. As such, rather than worrying about the past or the future, we should share, care, love and celebrate every moment of life.
There is a wise old saying that life and time are two great teachers. Life teaches us the use of time and time teaches us the value of life. The present moment offers a wonderful opportunity to appreciate both. We should fully capitalize on it by living it and loving it. A well-known Richmond based inspirational speaker, Azim Jamal,in one of his writings, has put it very well in these words: “Life is an experience to cherish, a fleeting moment to savour.” He goes on to state: “Life seeps by, while we wait for the perfect moment. Little do we realize that every moment is perfect. That it is in the being, not in the doing, that life is lived.”
Mindfulness is an excellent way to living more in the moment. It is state of active, open, intentional attention on the present. When you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them you are living in the moment. It involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Mindfulness has multiple benefits –social, emotional and physical. “Everyone agrees it is important to live in the moment, but the problem is how”, says Ellen Langer, a psychologist at Harvard University and author of Mindfulness. She goes on to state: “When people are not in the moment, they are not there to know that they are not there. Overriding the distraction reflex and awakening to the present takes intentionality and practice”.
Often, we are so engrossed in the thoughts of the future or the past that we forget to experience, let alone enjoy what is happening right now. We sip coffee and think, “This is not as good as I had last week. We eat a cookie and think, “I hope I don’t run out of cookies”. Experts on this subject emphasize that we should relish or luxuriate in whatever we are doing at the present moment and savour it. A study on this subject concluded that people, who took a few minutes each day to actively savour something that they were hurrying through before, began to experience more joy, happiness and other positive emotions. When we pay more attention to our senses and focus more on the moment, negative thoughts about the past or the future melt away. Prominent American writer Mark Twain captured this state of mind very well when he said: “I have known a great many troubles but most of them never happened.”
Michael Kernis, a researcher at the University of Georgia and an expert on mindfulness states that mindfulness decreases ego involvement. “People are less likely to link their self-esteem to events and more likely to take things at face value. It also makes people feel more connected to other people –that empathic feeling of being at one with the universe.” In order to enjoy the moment we need to look at the world and our environment with fresh eyes. Once we adopt that approach, we realize that the world is constantly changing. In order to live in the moment we need to become a witness to or an observer of what is happening around us at this very moment. If the mind begins to wander away bring it back by saying to yourself: “Now. Now. Now”.
Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.