When you are at work, you fantasize about being on vacation; on vacation, you worry about work. You dwell on memories of the past or worry about what may or may not happen in the future.
You do not appreciate the living present because your monkey mind jumps from thought to thought like monkeys swinging from tree to tree.
You need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment – also called mindfulness – is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present.
When you become mindful, you realize that you are not your thoughts; you become an observer of your thoughts from moment to moment without judging them.
Mindfulness involves being with your thoughts as they are, neither grasping at them nor pushing them away. Instead of letting your life go by without living it, you awaken to experience.
Mindfulness reduces stress, boosts immune functioning, reduces chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, and helps with cancer. By alleviating stress, spending a few minutes a day focusing on living in the moment reduces the risk of heart disease.
Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and accept their own weaknesses.
Awareness in the here and now reduces impulsivity and reactivity that underlie depression, binge eating, and attention problems.
That is one paradox of living in the moment: Thinking too hard about what you are doing actually makes you do worse. If you are in a situation that makes you anxious, focusing on your anxiety tends to heighten it.
Focus less on what is going on in your mind and more on what is going on around you, less on your mental chatter and more on yourself as part of something.
When you are mindful, you are more likely to experience yourself as part of humanity, as part of a greater universe. By reducing self-consciousness, mindfulness allows you to witness the passing drama of feelings and social pressures. Focus on the present moment forces you to stop overthinking.
Mindfulness boosts your Awareness of how you react to what is happening in your mind. It increases the gap between emotional impulse and action.
Focusing on the present reboots your mind so you can respond thoughtfully rather than automatically. You get the opportunity to decide how you want or should respond.
Perhaps the most complete way of living in the moment is the state of total absorption psychologists call flow. Flow occurs when the depth of your engagement absorbs you powerfully. Flow is an elusive state.
As with romance or sleep, you can not just will yourself into it – all you can do is set the stage, creating the optimal conditions for it to occur. You feel as if your
Awareness merges with the action you are performing.
Mindfulness is not a goal, because goals are about the future, but you do have to set the intention of paying attention to what is happening at the present moment. Become aware of being alive. And breathe.
As you draw your next breath, focus on the in-breath and the out-breath. If you are aware of that feeling right now, as you are reading, you are living in the moment.
Nothing happens next. It is not a destination. This is it. You are already there.