There are so many things to take away us from the NOW. Thoughts of the future, regrets from the past, technology, concerns over your children’s lives, the news and the fear it generates, the economy and who’s to blame. Maybe you have health issues or financial worries. All these concerns take us away from the NOW and put you back in the past or into the future. This leaves you with the inability to appreciate this very moment and feel peace.
When we were young parents we learned a lesson on appreciating the NOW. We won a trip to Hawaii from a radio show contest about 16 years ago. We were thrilled. We got to stay at the Embassy Suites with a full breakfast (always important with kids!) and a rental car for 5 days. Little did we know that we’d be getting one of the biggest lessons we’d ever learn in life, “Don’t wish your life away!”
Looking back, we should have been appreciating the moment but we had just been thinking about the future and retirement. We woke up very early because of jet lag. The sun was just rising and the sky was pink and dark blue, the air warm and balmy and the ocean was just the right temperature. I sat on a beach chair with the baby, while The Zen Papa watched the boys, ages 5 and 7, chase the waves. A man in his 60s came up to the Zen Papa and they began to have a conversation. He was in Maui and retired. He had brought his whole family to be with him and his wife. The Zen Papa made this wistful comment to this man, “I can’t wait until I’m retired.” The man’s pointed his finger at the Zen Papa and said, “Don’t wish your life away.” It was a moment we’ve never forgotten.
Living in the moment seems simple but is not always easy. Here are 9 ways to NOT wish your life away and stay grounded in the present:
1. Before you put your feet on the ground when you wake up, think a pleasant thought or think about something nice you can do for someone else that day.
2. Close your eyes. Use your other senses besides sight. What are the smells? What do you feel on your face, the sun or wind? What are you hearing? If you are eating, then really taste the food instead of just eating to satisfy hunger. When you open your eyes you will be more attentive to the present moment.
3. Instead of always feeling stressed or anticipating some anxiety, go out and do something! Take a walk in a beautiful spot, workout; get your body moving and your blood flowing.
4. Be mindful, slow down. Wake up early and enjoy the coffee with your loved ones. Actually stop at every stop sign. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, drive away. Pay attention to where you’re driving and what you’re doing at work.
5. Make a list on paper, so that you don’t have Monkey Mind, that chatter or the running list that is always in your head.
6. Be quiet in nature. I try to go outside and watch the sunset or sunrise each day. I listen and watch the wildlife in our yard. Look at the stars. All simple things, I know, but it works.
7. Have a real conversation. Listen to what a person is telling you. Practice active listening. Look in their eyes, ask questions. Participate. Don’t think of something else while they talk.
8. BREATHE. Many eastern practices have helped people to breathe and live in the moment. Meditation and yoga are just two examples. Andrew Weil has a great breathing exercise.
9. Remind yourself of how lucky you really are. Gratitude can help you to remember this. Gratitude reminds you of all that is positive in your life.
While we never knew his name, the retired man on the beach in Maui left a big impression on us. And while we often dream of the future, we try to stay grounded in the present and remind ourselves daily of how lucky we are!
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
~Henry David Thoreau
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