There is so much talk about being in the present moment that it can make you feel that you are doing something wrong when you are not in the now. At least, that is how it makes me feel. Because, let’s be honest, how often are you really fully engaged in the present moment? How often can we say that our minds were not off to some other place?
This week I was in a class of one of my favorite teachers in San Francisco and he changed my perspective by simply saying that you shouldn’t search for constantly being in the now, but focus on realizing when you are not. When you become aware of when you are not in the now, it gives you an opportunity to return, be aware of where you are, how you feel and connect to what is.
I remember when I started meditating and doing yoga, that all that talk about being in the present moment seemed so exaggerated. Why can you not be day dreaming? What is wrong with reliving parts of your past through memory? And what is wrong with envisioning the future? All of that helps you to grow, right? It helps you to have a purpose. It helps you to learn from mistakes.
How I look at it now, is that there is nothing wrong with envisioning your future or learning from the past. What I do believe is that hanging around constantly in either one of those planes will keep you from enjoying the moment you are in.
When I was younger my mum and dad would take me to this place called ‘de Zaanse Schans’, a very typical Dutch village with windmills, a place where they made cheese and mustard. I remember going there and it was always packed with tourists. One time I was there with my other (blonde) friends and a group of Chinese people wanted to take a picture with us. It went on for 15 minutes, one picture after the other. They did not communicate with us, in any kind of way, they just stood there. And I remember me stepping away from the picture and saying to my mum: why are they doing this? Why do they want to be in the picture with us while they don’t know who we are? Why are they not looking around and enjoying this place?
Now I get that we were very typical Dutch blonde girls in a very typical Dutch setting. But I do believe my questions were very valid. They only saw De Zaanse Schans and my friends through the lens. They did not pay attention to their surroundings, almost as if they weren’t really there and would look at what they had seen in the pictures at home.
This is something we constantly do in our own lives. While we are living through a moment, we are showing pictures from the past, we are talking about what we will do next, we do all these things except for really enjoying the moment itself. And that’s where it is important to realize when you are not really in the moment. That is what my teacher meant with becoming aware of when you are drifting off, when you are physically there, but mentally not engaged.
The best practice, (which is hard; let’s be honest), is to not look at your phone for 1 hour, 2 hours, a full day (depending on how much you normally look at it). Be fully connected to the person that is in front of you, being engaged in the conversation and reading their signs – are they enjoying the conversation, do they understand what you say, are they genuinely interested in what you are telling them.
Another fun practice is to look at something you see everyday, a picture, a plant, a house on your way to work, a little table in the corner, and so on. Look at it for a couple of minutes and really see it. You most likely will notice something new, or you realize you never really actually looked at it before.
And obviously, meditate, at least a few minutes per day. Become aware of how often the mind drifts off to the past or the future, and practice to simply become the best at tracking when you are there or not.
So why should you be in the now? My simple answer would be:
It allows you to be there, be aware and let life surprise you as it unfolds every minute of every day.