“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne
Alright. Real moment here.
Time terrifies me.
The idea that someday, if God wills it, I will be rendered incapable of doing the activities that I love independent of assistance, such as running or exploring, because of time is an idea that stalks me. It’s an shaggy, oversized lab-dog, bred to remind me to not stop running. The mangy canine growls in my ears constantly, telling me: “Bark! Bark bark bark!” (which roughly translates to, “Enjoy it while it lasts, because it won’t last forever!”).
I don’t mean any disrespect to our elderly, or those who are unable to fully perform the tasks they were once able to without help. I honor you, and I support you.
It’s this; that I spend so much time thinking about the future, while simultaneously trying to hold the past, that I miss out on the present. I miss moments.
What would our lives be like if we stopped thinking about the future? If we let go of the past, and stopped trying for control?
Every time I spend 5 minutes planning out my day tomorrow, every time I spend 5 minutes reflecting on my favorite moments of yesterday….those are 5 minutes that I don’t spend in the present. That’s huge. Can you imagine how much time we spend thinking about either the future or the past? Can you imagine what it would be like to live an actual 24-hour day?
No wonder we spend so much effort exclaiming, “Wow! Time really seems to be flying!” It’s like when I accidentally forget to start my GPS running app until after I’ve gone half a mile, and then suddenly the quirky British lady who narrates my run every kilometer informs me that currently I’m maintaining a 2:40 min/mile pace.
As much as I like to pretend that I could kick some serious butt running the mile in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics this summer, it’s simply because I didn’t press the Start Workout button until after I had started.
That’s what we do with the Moment, too. We rush into the present without pressing the Start Time button; namely, we don’t take an active role in being fully present.
Here are what I believe to be two of the biggest obstacles that keep us from our Moment:
The major player in rooting us in our past is the presence of so many pictures. Pictures can draw us away from King Present into the seductive clutches of Lady Nostalgia. They have the ability to say, “Look at how much fun you were having! Do you remember this? Oh, if only things were like this now. You two used to be such great friends. Remember when you were still dating that toxic boyfriend? Sure, he cheated on you, but see how happy you look here!”
I hope that you are reading between the lines in order to see what I am truly conveying.
Down with all Pictures!! Let’s go Fahrenheit 451 on their glossy pixelated butts!
Pictures can be a beautiful thing. They have the ability to surround us with comfort and remind us of our connections to things outside of ourselves. They give us the opportunity to travel when we could otherwise not afford either the money or the time. The past is important in helping us understand who we are in the present, and pictures can be an aide.
But they also, if we let them consume us, have the ability to suck us back in time and not allot escape. They have the ability to trap us into comparisons with others, and a cycle of discontentment.
I include the word “over” because the planning part of the dynamic should not be inherently frowned upon. Much like the pictures. It’s the practice of over-indulgence that can be so toxic and function as a barrier from the Moment.
Planning is grand, goal setting is stellar; these are two things that I would function poorly without and both are a cause of great comfort for me. It’s beneficial to have structure in one’s life, and planning and goal-setting is one outlet for establishing a grounded structure.
But I find myself getting so wrapped up in it all. I engage in this cycle of simply “looking forward” to the next thing. This Spring Break. The summer. Next year when I study in Austria. The year after that when I get to student teach. The year after that when I go to grad school. When I finally get to thru-hike the Appalachian trail. When I get to be married and have dogs. I mean kids.
All of these things take me from my Moment. They render me discontent with how things are right now. I’m not able to appreciate fully what I have at the Moment because of the impossibly high standards I am comparing it against.
So what are some practical ways that we can practice immersing ourselves in the Moment?
I am a proud journal-er. I have a beautiful, dusky un-lined Moleskine journal that I write in every morning in order for my brain to meet the world in a non-confrontational space. One way that I can practice appreciating the Moment is by starting each entry with “Today is Monday, March 14th. That is the day that I am in right now, and the day that I will return to after this entry”. This declaration of my intention to return to the Moment gives me space to travel away from it. Because it helps my state of mind and being to process the events of the previous day and to goal-set for the future. Ultimately I must return to the present, and by stating my intention it becomes much easier.
I believe also taking time to describe the Moment is beneficial. When you find yourself becoming distracted with thoughts of either the future or the past, take the intentional, mindful time to describe your surroundings. What things do you hear right now?What are some smells? What are your thoughts? What’s your favorite part about right now? Call yourself out on your inability to remain in the present. Keep yourself accountable. Find the balance between past and too-much-past, and future and way-too-much-future.
Take heart. The Moment is here and real, and waiting for you. You don’t need to stay in your Past, you are the reincarnate of your Past. You take it with you, there’s no need to cling to it. Your future is going to come inevitably, however prepared you are for it.
Press Start Time when you start the Moment; don’t wait until you’ve already begun.
Trust me, it’ll just render you hopelessly confused about why you’ve suddenly gotten so fast.
Peace and Blessings,