Life be Simple
a regular basis, I am asked how I decide the topics for these
monthly editorials. It seems that most months the issues I talk
about are exactly what many readers are dealing with. "How
did you know I needed to hear about that?" someone will
ask. "Your editorial is the first thing I read," another
person writes, "because I know it will give me insights
into things that have been on my mind." On a few occasions,
people I know personally have gotten angry or hurt because the
topic hits home for them and they think I am writing about them
when I'm not. The topics are decided by my opening my mind to
ideas with the express intent of writing about something that
will help as many readers as possible. Different ideas will swirl
around during the month until one of them becomes dominant. Then
I sit down and write. Sometimes I resist the topic that presents
itself because to write about it hits too close to my own current
issues and I know I can't write about it without becoming more
vulnerable than is comfortable.
This month several
topics presented themselves, but one shouted louder than the
others no matter how many times I shooed it away. Like a pesky
mosquito, it demanded my attention. A lot of us must be dealing
with learning how to live in the present- or need to deal with
I doubt there is
anyone who will argue against the idea that we live best when
we're in the present rather than rehashing the past or anticipating
the future. And most will agree that although this sounds like
an easy thing to do, it isn't. We all know about arriving at
our destination and not being aware of how we got there because
we were busy having an imaginary conversation with someone or
were planning what to say once we got where we were going.
All of us have tripped
over something because we weren't watching where we were walking.
Sliced fingers while cutting vegetables, bit tongues while eating,
hands burned on hot kettles- these are all calls to pay attention
to the present moment.
Many of the things
we do in life such as driving and walking simply don't require
one hundred percent of our attention. It is easy to slip the
mind into neutral and surf through the many different areas of
our lives looking for something to obsess about. We are, however,
cheating ourselves out of some of our own existence when we do
Being present with
ourselves in the moment is truly living. Everything else is just
going through the motions. No wonder so many people are dissatisfied
with their lives. When you're not present for your life, not
extracting every precious drop from the present moment, how can
you be happy?
But how do we stay
in the present? When our to-do lists are longer than the tail
of a kite, how do we give up thinking about the next task before
we've finished what we're doing? And when so many people have
been abused and wronged in so may ways, how do we stop dwelling
on the past and be present now?
Intention and detachment
are two keys. Simply stating the intention to be present in our
own lives starts us on the path to doing so. Being aware that
this is something we value and want to make a part of us is the
first step. Detachment is a huge help in letting go of the past
and the future. When we are preoccupied about either it is because
we are placing too much importuned on what has happened or on
what will happen.
Lots of times the
past can't be let go of without the professional help of a therapist.
Healing the past allow us to release it. As long as it is still
sore we will not be able to be current in our lives. The past
aches and pains build a huge wall that keeps us separate from
ourselves and the reality of daily living.
Use of our senses,
especially touch, helps us remain in the present more easily.
Try an experiment. For the next few minutes be totally aware
of your sense of touch. Actually feel your hands holding the
newspaper. Be aware of whatever you are sitting on, really feel
it supporting your body. You'll find that it is impossible to
think about anything but the present moment when you're totally
involved with sense of touch.
Listen to the sounds
around you. Be aware of the traffic outside. Hear the birds chirping,
the dogs barking, the children laughing.
Take a deep breath
and be aware of what the air smells like. Is it sweet? Stale?
sour Besides being an aid to better breathing , being aware of
the smells in our world is a great help to staying in the here
and now. Some people are afraid that if they focus on the present
they will lose their goals and sense of direction. They feel
they need the pull of the future to keep them going. Sometimes
the best use of the present moment is planning the future. Being
present in our lives doesn't mean we don't remember. it simply
means that when we are doing either we do it fully and with total
awareness of what we're doing rather than it happening by default:
nothing else was going on in the mind so it started to wander
and landed on next week's meeting with the boss.
begins to happen when we are present to ourselves. We begin to
accept that our everyday lives actually have value. This is something
most of us have lost" an sense of the importance of our
mundane lives. We think that the lives of famous people are important.
We think our lives are important if we're doing something we
consider significant. But the everyday stuff? Nah. That can't
be of any consequence.
So we start focusing
on the unusual, the different, even the bizarre. Now that's important.
Walking on fire, seeing auras, communicating with space beings,
predicting the future: we deem these things important and we'll
pay attention while doing them.
vacuuming, walking the dog, brushing our teeth, these things
are routine, have to be done, and it's fine to think about other
things while doing them. This is not the truth.
When we start paying
attention to the details of our lives, we start to value what
we do- and ourselves- in an entirely new way. We begin to understand
that the tiniest action we take reverberates throughout the cosmos
and is important. No one else in the entire universe is sitting
exactly where you are, right now, doing exactly what you're doing,
and never will be. If your do not perform that act with presence
and intent no one ever will.
People are not great
because of what they do. Actions become great because a great
person does them. No one has the least bit of interest in the
vest I'm wearing today. If I told a certain person that this
vest used to belong to Elvis, it would suddenly have tremendous
value and I would be lucky to hold onto it.
The same is true
of everything in our lives. We bring the greatness to what we're
doing. We don't have to star in a major motion picture to be
great. All we have to do is bring our attention to the details
of our lives, perform all actions to the best of our ability,
and be truly present to ourselves. There is magic that is released
when we do this.
Our lives begin
to sparkle with meaning and purpose because we're living them
consciously. It is also a great relief to realize we don't have
to live the past, present, and future all at the same time. All
we have to do is attend to whatever is immediately in front of
us and it will lead us to the next step we're to take. Doesn't
that make life a lot simpler than the way we live it now?