Sunset View from the house

You hear it all the time… just live in the moment!  That’s the key to happiness, lower stress, getting over past relationships, letting go of failure, etc.  It’s great advice for anyone enjoying a full life. For some this comes as easy as breathing. Unfortunately for me, and I think for a lot of people, it is a tough thing to do. This can be especially true when you are doing things you have done before. Other people may not think of running on the beach at sunset as an ordinary thing, but if you’ve done it dozens of times, it can take an effort to live even in that moment. However, it is an extraordinary thing and I want to make the effort to acknowledge it. What I’ve found is that it is hard to hold that feeling for the whole run, but I can absolutely take a brief pause, and really live in that moment.

The difference between living in the moment and living in a moment is the time you hold the sensation of now. To live in the moment means to let go of your cares, worries, and to take in the experience you are having right now. I’ve been there… it’s great! When I’ve been in the moment it is usually because the moment is so unusual, so engaging that it consumes all your attention. It takes no effort in these cases it just happens. Living in a moment tries to recreate that feeling for a brief moment rather than an extended time.

One of the great benefits of having lived in the moment is that you end up with strong, detailed memories of the experience. I love the feeling and the ability to recall all the details of an event or encounter. But I can’t just turn the feeling on at will. I can’t take myself there it just happens. However I’ve found that I can get to that place for there for a brief period of time – a moment!

Paused my run to enjoy a sunset

So, what does it take for me to get to that place? The first thing I do is get rid of the distractions. Stop planning, don’t think about the next thing you need to do, focus on what you’re doing right now. Let go of past failures, those lessons have been learned, what you need to know will come to you when you need it. I’ve found it helpful to think of this process as taking a mental vacation, because that’s what it is. Thinking, planning, worrying, experiencing regret are all work… there is a time to do that work but sometimes it is good to take a vacation from the mental grind!

Next, heighten your senses. Really experience the world around you, listen for things you normally just filter, birds, traffic, surf, wind in the trees… Do the same with your other senses, smell, touch, taste. Let in an innocent sense of wonder so you can appreciate all of these things as if you were experiencing them for the first time. Then hold on to that place as long as long as you can.

Enjoying a moment before heading up Bright Angel Trail Grand Canyon 2010

Not only is it possible to create a more lasting memory by living in a moment, it refreshes your soul, relaxes your body, dumps stress, and improves your mood. When you get back to what you were doing you continue to enjoy being more connected to the moment at least for a while. But eventually the thoughts and worries will return, but not quite as heavily as before.

So far I’ve been able to live in a moment fairly well when I’m alone, but not as well when I’m with other people.  I can focus completely on the people or I can zone out and take in my surroundings, but I have a hard time doing both.  This may be a “multitasking” issue, and humans in general don’t multitask well.  My time with others is very important to me, so I plan to at least try.   I imagine adding a strong focus on the people around me will be a key, focusing on them and the place at the same time.   However, this may be more difficult than it sounds.  A more likely way for this to happen may be to experience a comfortable silence with the people around me as we all take in the world around us, and share in the wonder of it.  Of course that can’t be done on demand… everyone has to get there at the same time on their own.

It would be great to be able to get into the now more on demand.  I will keep thinking about how to do this and try to make it more a part of my daily life.  I’m sure it will definitely be worth the effort.

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