Great figures in literature, philosophy, religion, science, and entertainment have considered for eons what it means to be in the moment. Whether it’s about awareness, clarity, a sense of purpose, mystery, or wonder, “the moment” is a state of being; one that is as elusive as it is rewarding.
“The moment” doesn’t discriminate on the basis of age, gender, income, experience, or life pursuits. Remarkably, “the moment” feels about the same for everyone. It’s a universal state of mind that people from all walks of life try to attain. It can feel like the world is in high resolution, the little things don’t bother you, you have purpose and excitement for whatever you are doing. But, it’s extremely challenging to exist in “the moment” at all time. Stress at work, a bad night’s sleep, a lover’s quarrel, or a bad mood can easily snuff it out, sending us out of the moment into worry about the future (What’s going to happen now?), or regret about what we just said or did (Why did I say that?!).
How do you transform the remarkable lightness of being into a constant state? Whenever you feel yourself slipping, try the following techniques to get back on track.
- Proclaim a period of observation. Commit to one to two weeks to nothing but conscious study of yourself. Observe your reaction to the world around you. What do you notice? What do you daydream about? Take advantage of the empty space to evaluate different ideas, but don’t pressure yourself to decide anything.
- Reconnect to your vision. Whenever you are distracted by thoughts of the past or future instead of focusing on your current surroundings, reconnect to your goals. Ask yourself what the gift of the current moment is in relation to your goals. Reminding yourself that you are moving in the right direction is soothing, and experiencing the moment in context of your goals will ground you very quickly.
- Start every day brand new. British nun-cum-author Monica Baldwin (1896-1975), wrote, “The moment you first wake up in the morning is the most wonderful of the 24 hours. No matter how dreary or weary you may feel, you possess the certainty that, during the day that lies before you, absolutely anything may happen. And the fact that it practically always doesn’t, matters not a jot. The possibility is always there.” I couldn’t articulate it any better.
- Find your own meditation. Traditional meditative practices use breathing techniques to calm the mind and body. But these practices aren’t for everyone. What calms your mind and body and helps you tolerate the ambiguity of a moment? Maybe it’s something physical like jogging, or something less active, like listening to music or repeating a simple mantra to yourself.
- Listen. When you fall out of “the moment” you stop listening to the person you’re talking to, and start thinking about what you are going to say next. Get yourself back by concentrating on your partner and taking in their every word; then figure out your response.
- Do a sensory check. One of the surest ways to reconnect to your immediate surroundings is to do a quick sensory check. Slow down and look around. What do you see? What do you feel? Smell? Hear? Taste? Use all five senses to connect details of your current moment. Slowing down and forcing yourself to take in the situation, sense by sense, will put you back on track.
Living in “the moment” is an optimal state of being; once you know what it feels like, you can practice staying there. Why develop this muscle? Because living in “the moment” results in the fullest, most textured life experiences.