“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
My Grandma Smith died when I was 8 years old. I am the youngest child of a youngest child, and so I didn’t have as much time with her as I would have liked. But what I remember about her is that when you were talking with her, she listened to you like you were the most important person to her in the world at that moment. She was present with you. This was a gift. The present is a gift to all of us if we receive it. It can be hard to receive the present--no pun intended. It’s not only a gift to ourselves, but a gift to others as well. With everything that is happening so fast in the world, isn’t this what we all want? Someone to listen to us as though we are the most important person in the world to them?
How do we receive the present moment? It all comes down to awareness. There is a difference between thinking and awareness. We can become aware of our thoughts, so they must be different. If we are aware of our thoughts, this means that we are the creators of our thoughts, which means we can choose which thoughts to believe and which thoughts to let go. Mindfulness is all about learning to be aware and to question your thoughts and thus receive the present moment. Mindfulness includes meditation, but it is really a way of living. Just like exercise to the body makes it stronger, meditation to the mind makes our awareness stronger. And not only awareness: meditation also deepens our concentration, learning and memory, compassion, and introspection. Here is a great article from the Harvard Gazette that explains this further.
If you are wanting to create more mindfulness in your daily life, here are a few tips. In the middle of anything you may be doing, whether it’s washing dishes, eating, walking the dog, finishing a job you may be doing, or even when you are just waiting in between things in your schedule, bring attention to the breath. Focus on the breath where you feel it the most. You may feel it in your abdomen. Try putting your hand on your stomach and just watch as your stomach rises with the in breath and falls with the out breath. You may feel the breath the most at your nose. Notice the breath as it comes in and goes out of your nose; the temperature of the air changes as it comes in and goes out. W
hat else changes as you watch the breath in your nose? If you are at a stop light, make it a habit to breathe, just becoming aware of this moment in time. When you are in line at the store, make it a point to breathe and recognize any sounds, sensations, sights, or thoughts you may be having right now at this moment. You have this anchor of the breath with you always. You can call on it to bring you back to the present moment at any time.
It is important to not try too hard when you are practicing mindfulness. Trying too hard will only bring frustration. Remember--we are human beings, not human doings. Simply relax and try to give as much attention as you can to what is going on right now, whatever that may be. Allow yourself to have an open heart and open mind to whatever is going on right now.
So often, the more we try to fix or improve things, the more we get stuck in them. But if we will simply become aware, without judgement or entanglement, things will begin to make more sense and we will make wiser choices. One indication of mental wellness is the ability to be fully in the present moment, with no thoughts of being anywhere else. It is a gift to ourselves and all those who we encounter. Thanks, Grandma Smith for always being present with me. I feel like the luckiest granddaughter around.