Enjoy What Is

The present moment is filled with joy and happ...

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. (Photo credit: symphony of love)

  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.

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Published in: on October 23, 2013 at 3:49 pm  Comments (27)  
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27 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. LOVE, LOVE, love this, Lou. I try so hard to practice these tips above. It’s hard to not worry about the future isn’t it? I do now that that breathing thing works. Hubby and I actually practiced that for a while. Every day (this was before the big move) would listen to some meditations for 20 minutes and just be. It helped so much. The quieting the mind is the most difficult part.

    I just finished a project — a huge chalkboard is near my desk. It was an old picture I didn’t like anymore so it has this beautiful gold elaborate frame. Now, I’m able to jot down ideas, books I want to read, quotes that make me happy quickly. I’ll be using some of these from your wonderful post.

    Thank you. xo

    • It is funny that something so simple can be so helpful–quieting the mind is a necessity……
      Love your project–I have a beautiful elaborate frame I use in the living room propped up on the floor as an objet d’art–I think it would be better used as a beautiful chalkboard just as you are doing–love the idea–thanks so much good friend!

      • The pic was behind plexi-glass. I primed it with a bonding agent and then painted with chalkboard paint. Voila. I dig it.

      • me too

  2. It’s good to verify that I’m doing something right. I can get caught up in worrying about the future, but I’ve been combating it by making life as easy as possible. When we moved last year, I used it as an opportunity to divest our house of all unneccessary stuff. We severely pared down the stuff, clothes, furniture and dishes. It feels good to know that stuff isnt taking up mental and physical space anymore. I also just focus on one task at a time and do it as well as I can before I worry about the next thing to do. And above all else.. I find being nice and generous as much as possible brings both of those qualities out in the people around you.

    • what a beautiful comment–things do take up mental space–how true and I so agree with your last statement that being as nice and generous as possible brings out those attributes in others

  3. I so enjoyed reading your article, LouAnn. The ten steps sounds like the way to go, although like you, I could never subscribe to minimalism. Clearing some of the unwanted clutter does make one feel much better, so I do that periodically. “Cleaning as meditation”……..now there’s a thought. 😀

  4. I love the idea of doing one thing at a time as well as you can…..and purging is a great way to de-clutter your mind as well as your closet.

  5. It’s like Jordan sparks song, one step at a time – if you think too far ahead or if you let time race ahead, it can be so hard to keep up! I love this article 😀

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    • thanks so much–it is getting harder all the time to keep up–so much easier to just be

  6. Sage advice….I try to smile as much as possible and that does a lot for me!

  7. As I see summer fade …. autumn here… my mind does wander to the winter to come… and I think we definitely do so with our lives. but it is true that we need to enjoy and be present in the ‘today’ .. Diane

  8. Another word for living in the present is being mindful… which means just slowing down, breathing and noticing…it really can be easy !!!!

  9. I love the part about smiling. I actually have a sticky note on my computer desktop labeled, Daily Goals, and one of them includes: smile to myself at least twice a day. It sounds a little silly but whenever I turn on my computer in the morning, it’s the first thing I see and so I smile when I see that. Goal halfway accomplished. I think it’s getting harder to remember to slow down and breathe because there’s always so much going on and the internet is a 24/7 haven of things we always want to catch up on. I’ve learned to prioritize and also just take things as they come. It’s a work in progress but reminding ourselves of it is always a good first step. 😉

    • I am trying to do the same and your comment gave me the first smile of the day and it really does make a difference–am thinking of you and your challenges but I know you are up to them ((hugs))

  10. Great column, LouAnn, and one I really needed tonight! I, too, have difficulty living in the present. In fact, I’m sitting here at 3:30 in the morning unable to sleep due to anxiety over what needs to be accomplished over the next few days. Having read this, I’m also breathing deeply and hoping that that helps me relax enough to crawl back into bed and get some sleep!

    • I read about what you are up against–I am up against a November 1 deadline and have company coming and am hoping to leave on a vacation–so I know how you feel–we shall both take a deep breath or two or three–I have been up since 3:30 too–my thoughts are with you–you have a little too much on your plate (hugs)

  11. […] Enjoy What Is (onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com) […]

  12. It is very hard to be in the present moment. We’ve trained ourselves all our lives to be in our personalities instead. We’ve trained ourselves to be in our thoughts. I think we need to be very gentle with ourselves when fail to meet our expectations that we *should* be in the moment. I am learning to be gentler the many times I find myself lost in thought and personality. Great column! P.S. I’ve visited these websites, too.

    • I am glad someone put these thoughts into words because, yes, living in the present moment only sounds easy–it is not–and shoulds are too demanding


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