As I sit here stuck in my apartment in the midst of Snowpacolypse 2014, I keep hearing about how people are suffering from “cabin fever” from being stuck inside. I also keep seeing on the news how people are buying up batteries, flashlights, and such, so they can prepare for the worst. Now, I am not opposed to being prepared (I am a planner) and I like to go out, but as I watch the snowflakes slowly fall, I find myself being very grateful that I have the ability to live in the moment.
In today’s world, we are bombarded by a barrage of various stimuli from the moment we wake up until the moment we go to sleep. Additionally, it is constantly preached to us that we need to “plan for the future” and “think ahead” if we want to be successful. I don’t completely disagree with that notion, nor do I think having information at our fingertips is in itself a bad thing, but these factors have made it extremely difficult to truly be in the moment. As an example, I would like you to take a few moments, go to a quiet place, close your eyes, and try to focus just on your breathing for 60 seconds. Keep your entire focus completely on the sensations of the air passing in and out of your lungs. How did it go? I’m guessing that you probably found it pretty difficult to keep that singular focus. Your mind probably started wandering to other things like what to make for dinner, an errand you need to run, or a million other things. Have no worries, you are not alone, and I am here to help.
The fact that our minds jump from one thought to another has been hardwired into our brains. When prehistoric man was out in the world hunting for food, if he didn’t notice and focus on the sound of a breaking twig or a flicker of light in the distance, he wouldn’t survive. This “monkey mind,” as it is sometimes called, has evolved as a part of our biology even today. This inability to slow down and focus on one thing, or this one moment, was a survival mechanism, but today it makes it very difficult to fully appreciate and enjoy life. Fortunately, with practice and a lot of patience this valuable skill can be cultivated to yield great benefits.
I first was exposed to the idea of being “mindful of the moment” when I first started studying Zen meditation about a decade ago. Mindfulness is a core concept behind Zen Buddhism, which focuses on being objectively aware of each moment. Only after years of practice can I now appreciate how important mindfulness is in enjoying life. I used to always be thinking about what would happen next. Would I be safe? Would I need assistance? Was it wheelchair accessible? Basically, I was living in the future, and as a result, I rarely took the time to let myself feel much of anything. I was like a robot. Once I became more aware and mindful of the present, my entire life changed for the better. I could be moved to tears by a song, appreciate the beauty of nature, empathize with the pain of loved ones, because I was finally aware that these things were happening! I also became more mindful of my internal world, which helped me better understand and take care of my body and feelings.
This ability to really enjoy and appreciate my world more is something that I value greatly at this point in my life. I am one of the oldest people with my disease. I have had brushes with death and know that at any time my body could give out. This does not mean that I feel like I’m living on borrowed time or anything, but it does help me see the importance of cherishing each moment. By living in the moment with an attitude of mindfulness, I can have the best quality of life possible.
If enjoying life more isn’t enough motivation to work on this skill, research shows that people who are more mindful are seen as more charismatic, make more money, and have better relationships. If you take the time to grow this ability, I give you a “Scott Drotar Guarantee” that you will lead a more enjoyable life. As most of the country is stuck inside today, I beg you to take a few breaks today to spend just a few seconds completely in the moment. Completely focus on the one thing you are doing. You will feel better, I promise. I would love to hear how much though, so leave me a comment.