I might hear or utter the saying “be in the moment” more these days than ever before. It is probably because as I get older I am around more people who are learning (or have learned) what that really means.
And why it is so beneficial.
In college and through my twenties, I am sure I heard the saying but I thought that “staying busy” was the best way to be productive. I always thought if I wasn’t doing something, I wasn’t living. And I put a lot of pressure on myself to “live”, and therefore constantly be moving, and doing.
It was difficult, in fact, to just sit and veg out because it felt like I was wasting time. Of course, I was not, and as I reached my thirties started to see how that line of thinking was detrimental. Time wasn’t futile. But because I spent it constantly moving in an attempt to “use” it best I was actually burning myself out, and not using it well at all.
You can have all the time in the world. But if you are too energetically tired you will never use it effectively.
I was definitely not living in the moment. I was rushing through it, and because of it, was feeling often out of touch with who I was or what I wanted. It is hard to find joy and peace when you don’t slow down enough to see it.
I gave a lot of lip service to slowing down and living in the moment because I knew it had benefits. But giving it lip service doesn’t make it so. You must actively do things to be present and experience the benefits.
This all started to resonate for me in mid-life when I needed more of the benefits living that way brings. Aging parents, and a daughter who is growing up way too quickly puts things into perspective. As do the things that often are talked about with mid-life – retirement, death plans, and how to do the second half of life.
Rushing to nowhere doesn’t seem as paramount anymore.
The perspective changes, certainly, in the different phases of life. And there might not be a need to think deeply at 22 years old about where you will be buried or how you will care for your aging parents.
But learning to live in the moment whether you are young or old means when it comes time to give any confronting life realities more space in your head you aren’t left feeling as though you don’t know where all the time went, or that you didn’t live enough or do enough with your children, parents, friends – or yourself.
Being in the present and living in the moment is the antidote to regret.
It means nothing more than living, and doing it deliberately.
It means being truly awake at all stages of life – making decisions, feeling, loving, and being cognizant of who you are and what you want for your life.
And it means paying daily attention to what you need in your life to live it consciously. It is minimalism at its best and what creating your life is all about.
But it isn’t meant to be all-encompassing. It isn’t another tool by which you measure yourself, or judge yourself. Being in the moment is just a way to slow things down at times to catch up with your life.
I have learned that being present, while sometimes difficult, is, in fact, not possible all the time – which is actually quite refreshing. Chasing after that presence all the time simply sets you up for failure. It puts an unfair expectation on you to do something that can’t be achieved because life is always moving. There are priorities and tasks and important things that need your attention.
And take your attention. And that is okay.
Instead of aiming to be in the moment all the time, aim to create the time to notice and pay attention to what is around you.
Choose to make it a daily goal to be more aware of moments that move you. Moments when God is present or the Universe is nudging you to stop or slow down.
Make obvious and call attention to the little things that bring you joy, or for that which you are grateful.
A.J. Jacobs wrote in Thanks a Thousand that noticing the small things daily that we usually take for granted – a hot cup of morning coffee, the laugh of a child, changing leaves on the trees – ushers in feelings of gratitude.
Gratitude is grounding.
And being grounded slows you down. It allows awareness of the present moment to be possible and take center stage, even for a small moment.
The reality is that the small moments are what matter. They add up, gain steam, and produce happiness. They become a positive force and creation tool you can rely on.
And over the course of a day, a week, or a lifetime, they are what will help you pay attention, be aware, act deliberately. And find the peace and joy you seek.