There is an amazing saying by Alice Morse which nails the whole meaning and the idea of life: “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the PRESENT”. However, do people really appreciate this priceless gift, or do we rather tend to underestimate it, substituting for the daily wonder that which has not yet happened?
In one of the speeches that she devoted to the importance of the ability to live in the here and now, the noted clinical psychologist and international speaker, Dr. Shefali, pointed out the comparison between adults and children in terms of perceptions of reality. Indeed, if we look these two cases, the difference is vast. There is a certain flexibility that all of us have during childhood which is exemplified by the ability to shift in a moment from crying the biggest tears to complete amazement and happiness (a common behavioral pattern of children). The biggest and the most amazing talent children have is the capacity to shift and live every moment and accept it. Moreover, whatever the moment is, children are completely engaged in it and then move on to another and then another one. Every moment, new engagement, beginner’s mind. This is the way you live in the present, in every tiny moment of the present. Because after all, what is your life if not a series of moments?
Nevertheless, adults who have experienced life and have well-structured and planned life models, are so afraid of new and uncertain things. They want everything to be defined and under their control, because this gives a feeling of safety. However, life is not like that. It is an unpredictable adventure and a constant uncertainty, a dance of events, actions, and pending moments. Maybe you will wake up tomorrow, and lose all you have, and that will be the moment when you will have to start from the very beginning. It will be a new journey. This is challenging, it is why most people choose to live life according to written lists of tasks that are not even their own. It is the rules of society, cultural and moral norms, our parents’ education, which came from their parents, and other sources which are anything but our own. We are running all through life to put those tiny tics on a list which is not even our own, losing the moments of own lives. And losing those pieces one by one, believing that they are not worthy, or that they are bad or the ones you should skip, you are losing each of them, which in the bigger perspective is equal to skipping your life by jumping constantly to the next part of it.
Just think about your normal day and your common thoughts. Aren’t they all oriented to future or past events? Possible plans, the effects of your work, etc.? Or, on the other hand, connected with the past: regretting or remembering good moments which are no longer present ones. We are stuck in between phases of reality, waiting for our plans to be realized, looking for meetings, changes, thinking about already past things, waiting for a warm summer or simply waiting for weekends. And the most ridiculous thing is that when that long-awaited moment comes, we are still not there. Physically yes, but in our thoughts, deep down, we are already somewhere else, thinking about a hundred other things in the future or the past. Then the very obvious question arises on its own, when are we really living?
Taking an example from the previously mentioned Dr.Shefali, there is one more vital thing connected with the ability to live in the present. In her works, she proves that after you really start to feel and live every moment to the fullest, the most significant thing happens. You start to hear yourself, your inner “I” and that person who you really are. Once you start to understand yourself, you are no longer following that created list, but you start to write a list of your own. This is when life stops being a way from point A to point B, from one action to another one, from past to future. It becomes a cheerful journey, full of bright moments which create a beautiful and full life in general. It is not about living a careless life, not thinking about tomorrow, it is about appreciating every single moment because it will never be the same again.
Therefore, even if you are in the rat race, standing right there at the starting point, preparing yourself to accomplish all your life goals or already running, choose to feel every moment of the race. Try to feel the tension in your muscles, every inhalation and exhalation, every drop of sweat running down your face. Feel every moment and engage to the maximum in whatever it is you are doing. This is the way you can live your life and not just exist. This is the art of being in the present moment. This is the art of living.
Photo: Martina Advaney