Learning to live in the moment can transform your life, but what does living in the moment mean? Does it mean that our past is irrelevant? Or, that we have no concern for the future and that we should forget about our goals and dreams, and just accept whatever happens? The answer to these questions is, no.
To live in the present doesn't mean that you have to forget the past or future; you don't have to give up your goals or just go with anything that comes your way. Instead, living in the moment is about learning to let go of attachment or aversion to past experiences, while not projecting those attachments or aversions into our future.
It is about creating and defining goals, yet allowing ourselves to work towards them, rather than worrying about how we are going to achieve them, or imagining that what has happened in the past to sabotage them will happen again. In this way, we can engage fully with our present experience without judgement and doubt.
ACCEPT THE PAST
It is also about acknowledging the reality of our experience, rather than denying, repressing or avoiding the accompanying thoughts and emotions. We can instead accept that these thoughts and feelings are part of our human experience, and in the next moment choose to let any negative thoughts go and focus on something positive that can create a difference for us right now.
I have had moments when I forgot to do this, times such as when we've picked the wrong day out of a weekend to spend at the beach. We went on the Sunday when it poured with rain all day unexpectedly. Saturday was beautiful and sunny. My mind was full of thoughts of how much better our day at the beach would have been if we had gone on the Saturday instead. Now I'm more likely just to enjoy making sandcastles with my coat on.
But there are still times when I forget to be in the moment. Recently I spent the first 15 minutes of my Yoga class stressing about how awful the chipped nail polish on my toes looked and was annoyed with myself that I didn't take it off the night before. Instead of using that precious time to relax and be in the moment, I was worry about something that I couldn't do anything about and really didn't matter in that moment.
On both these occasions (and many others), I let myself slip out of the moment, out of the appreciation of what is here and now, and kept listening to that voice inside my head that was telling me that things could have been better - if only.....
LIFE EDIT HABIT - Choose one simple thing to do mindfully every day...
A simple way to practice this experience is to choose one simple thing to do mindfully every day, for at least the next week or month. Something routine and uncomplicated such as cleaning your teeth, having a shower, brushing your hair, washing up (when I did my first mindfulness course years ago, this is one I was told to start with and now we don't have a dishwasher because I actually enjoy washing up!) or choosing to enjoy a meal mindfully with no phones or other distractions.
Focus all of your attention on the task and experience it as fully as you can, using all of your senses. Notice what the experience feels like, what thoughts and feelings occur to you. Remind yourself that there is no right or wrong way of doing it; there is just mindful attention in the moment. If your mind wanders, just note this and gently return to the task. Being aware of your experience, whatever form it takes, is what's important.
Another important thing to understand is that while attempting to be in the moment, our minds will want to wander off from thought to thought, which is completely normal. All we have to do is be aware that our minds have become unfocused and bring ourselves back to our task, whatever that might be. Being 'in the moment' is not about having an empty mind or a mind free of negative thoughts. Our minds are always going to be filled with thoughts.You might want to label the thoughts if you recognise them, 'Ah, this is my worry". You might also notice how easy it is to become overly identified with these distracting thoughts and how they take you away from being in the present.
Living in the moment is a skill that can be learned, so please don't give up if it doesn't come easily at first. The more you encourage yourself to live in the moment, the more engaged, relaxed and in control of your life you will feel. You might also find that you experience your day very differently as you become more aware of how it unfolds, moment by moment.
All we have is this moment; don't throw it away, because it sure isn't coming back.