living moment to moment

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

How many of us live life as if each moment was important and counted even if it was a moment of pain, sadness, anxiety, or fear? How many of us tend to waste an enormous amount of energy functioning on auto pilot and reacting unconsciously to the outside world and to our own inner experiences? When practicing yoga, how many of us immediately focus on achieving the full pose rather than experiencing each small movement and sensation that is required to get there? How many of us can suspend all judgments of ourselves and others for a couple of minutes, an hour, two hours, a day, several days, a week, or longer? How many of us see without seeing, taste without tasting, hear without hearing, touch without feeling, and talk without really knowing what we are saying?

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine and founder/director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and Center for Mindfulness at the University at Massachusetts Medical School, learning to live moment to moment and cultivating mindfulness is the heart of Buddhist meditation. Zinn also practices yoga and studies with Buddhist teachers to integrate their teachings with those of western science in his center. According to Buddhist teachings, mindfulness means paying attention to things we ordinarily never give a moment’s thought to. Mindfulness is learning to appreciate the richness of life and the inevitability of all its dilemmas, worries, sorrows, fears, disappointments, and tragedies. It is the practice of embracing the full picture and about allowing the stories of life to strengthen you and teach you about living, growing, and healing.

In his book, Full Catastrophe Living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness, he invites us to experiment with living intentionally moment to moment. Not living “for the moment” but rather living “in the moment.” To begin with try suspending all judgments for the time being and commit to observing and reconnecting with your “self” in each moment. Tune into the basic experience of living with things exactly as they are. Make an effort to slow down, nurture calmness and self-acceptance, and just observe your mind. Imagine watching a sunset. Notice its colors, its size, what you like about it, and how it makes you feel in the moment. Don’t allow comments by others about the sunset or your impulse to respond to them draw you away from experiencing it. Watch your thoughts and learn how to pay attention to the substance of your thoughts. Experience the sunset as if it is the first time you are seeing it. Let go of the other “stuff” in your mind that can zap your energy. You can apply this exercise to any moment in your life like driving your car somewhere, listening to a friend tell a story, eating an ice cream cone, or taking a walk outside. With practice and commitment your mind will clear making room for you to see the world and yourself in new ways.

As you go along you may notice that when trying to concentrate on a particular moment, to be in the present, very often your attention will be easily distracted. Our thoughts can be powerful and there is always noise in our minds. This can be especially true in a time of crisis when our thoughts often cloud our awareness of the present. As you start to observe each moment you will quickly discern that this unending noise has patterns. One of the most prevalent is the Voice of Judgment. This can create barriers that block the path to your ideal life.

The very act of observing and paying attention will allow your life to unfold from inside you moment by moment. Turn off your auto pilot mode and notice how gradually your relationship to your body, thoughts, perceptions and feelings change.

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