As we begin a new year, I am seeking fresh inspiration and challenges. One such inspiration found me last week…
I was driving to an appointment while listening to Brad Paisley’s song, “Today.” The powerful lyrics spoke to me: “I don’t know about tomorrow, but right now the whole world feels right.” And, in that moment, the whole world did feel right. The sun was shining on that cool, crisp morning; I was filled with purpose and determination, singing shamelessly to a great song. I was awash in peace and contentment. Within minutes, I came upon some road construction, then standstill traffic, and soon became anxious that I would be delayed. I hate to be late and keep others waiting. The mood was broken. But for those few, brief moments, I was living life in the moment, and it felt perfect.
I began reflecting upon the crazy lives we lead, filled with nonstop multi-tasking and fear of missing out (“FOMO” as my daughter calls it.) We are a society that dwells on our past, while worrying about the future and what awaits us somewhere else, tomorrow. The proliferation of 24-7 social media exacerbates this situation by causing us to focus more on capturing the moment in Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat photos rather than enjoying the beautiful hike, ski run, beach walk or dinner out with friends that we are currently engaged in. These continual, stress-producing distractions leave us enervated and unable to fully enjoy where we are, who we’re with and what we’re actually doing now, in the moment, today.
A good friend shared a favorite saying that seems quite apropos:
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it’s called THE PRESENT.
Such a simple message, yet one that is so challenging to live by. Sure, there are certain occasions in our lives when we are forced to live entirely in the moment (one example for me is water skiing… when I am being pulled by a speeding motorboat, ski skimming atop the crystal clear water, I have one thought—and one thought only—to remain upright, or risk crashing into the wake below!) I have never gone sky-diving or tried scuba but I imagine those activities produce the same exhilaration and adrenaline rush.
Vacation is a period during which work, study and other usual activities are suspended and typically replaced with rest, recreation or travel. Like most people, when I am on vacation, I find a Zen-like existence easier to embrace. I wake up early with few or no plans and let the day unfold organically. On a recent family holiday in California, I discovered joy in just being outdoors, breathing in the fresh mountain air, exercising daily, eating delicious, healthy food, and being with the people I love most. We hiked, played golf, took long walks, played beach volleyball and did yoga. Each day in the shank of the afternoon, we relaxed and read our books.
Very rarely during that vacation did I dwell on the past or worry about what awaited me when I got home. The usual stress was replaced with more energy, spirit, spontaneity and personal fulfillment. There is so much that life has to offer and it’s all right in front of us. Today. I know it’s not realistic to live the way we do on vacation every day of our lives. If that were the case, vacation would not exist. But living in the moment and enjoying what we’re doing now is something worth striving for.
The rise of “Mindfulness” and the popularity of yoga and meditation practices suggest that people are aware of the benefits of being more present in their lives and want to capture that feeling on a regular basis. For several years, I resisted practicing Yoga because I found the focus on breathing annoying and, as a form of exercise, Yoga seemed very “slow moving.” More recently, I have embraced Yoga and welcome the balance it brings to my life. It is, in fact, the ideal antidote to the Type-A personality. I do not pretend to be an expert on mindfulness or yoga, but I do know how I felt that day singing in the car, and I know how I feel when I’m waterskiing, or standing atop a mountain I’ve just climbed. Joyful and exhilarated! And, I want to hold onto that feeling.
Right now, my today moment entails writing this blog post and snuggling my beloved dog, as he nestles contentedly at my feet. (Incidentally, dogs have this totally figured out. They naturally live completely in the moment… then immediately move on to the next wonderful thing. We can learn a lot from our dogs!)
In 2017 and beyond, I am determined to live a life of mindfulness, relish the moment I’m in and enjoy today as much as possible. I challenge you to join me.