My weekly newspaper column:
The clock on the wall says it is past mid-October, but we are really only about four weeks into the fall season. October feels like fall to me — and even though the season really extends to December—this is the month that contains the golden days of fall. It seems so fleeting, giving way to the grey days of November and snow days of December. I want to hold it, grasp it and not let it go—but that is not how it works. Time marches on.
Thanksgiving is behind us; Halloween looms—we are caught mid-stage. I find myself wanting to enjoy every minute of October, yet already grieving its passing. Those who
advocate living in the present are probably happiest now. A quote I have taken to heart lately is attributed to that calmest of souls, Buddha: “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
Am I the only one who finds it hard to live in the present? To be aware of only what is happening now—to be so immersed in it that the past no longer matters, and the future is an illusion? I think not, as there have been about a million (and this only a slight exaggeration) books and essays and talks written on the subject. So why is it so hard to live in the present?
Before I answer that, I want to preface it with my belief that the past is important as it is what informs us; and the future is essential because that is where we are going. But I need to enjoy the here and now so I Googled the question: “Why is it so hard to live in the present?” and came across the site ohsheglows.com by Angela. Angela prescribes the vegan life on her blog, but she also deals with her struggle with anxiety which she attributes to worrying about the future.
She found ten steps on her favourite blog, Zen Habits, which help her live in the present. The first one seems simple and it is, but so many of us (me included) do not take the time to do it deeply. It is breathe. Angela says that breathing fully and deeply does not come naturally to her, but in moments of anxiety when she remembers to take at least three deep breaths it helps calm her. Calm is good—if you are going to enjoy the present, doing it calmly (serenely, peacefully, tranquilly) sounds like a lovely way to exist.
Becoming a minimalist was also one of the ways she approached living in the present, but it is not a preferred method for me. I agree that unneeded possessions clutter our life, but material things can be a comfort, so I will eschew this suggestion for the time being.
Smile. I try to do this a lot. It makes me feel good when I am smiled at—so I try to do the same—and the very act of smiling makes you feel better. It is weird but it works.
Forgive the past. We have all been through crappy stuff—I have come to the realization that we all have challenges. Angela says that sometimes she catches herself thinking about something as if it is happening to her now because memories are so vivid and real, but by forgiving them, you can move past it and live in the present. This has got tobe the hardest of all ten in my opinion, but if achieved one of the best.
The other five that she found in her research to combat living in the past, or having anxiety about the future are: dream big, but work hard TODAY; do one thing at a time; do less by adding space between your tasks; use cleaning as meditation; and spread the love—do something nice for someone else. Cleaning as meditation gives me pause. But she says that “cleaning can be a form of mindfulness…and rituals are often calming.” So the next time I dust or vacuum or do the dishes I will think of them as rituals and not madly rush through them. (Yeah, right!)
My favourite go-to for quotes is the ever eloquent Unknown who has just the perfect piece of wisdom to end this column: “If you worry about what might be, and wonder might have been, you will ignore what IS.” So these last few days of my favourite month, I will enjoy what is.