I’ve been hearing a lot about this idea lately, this concept of being present, and I always find it interesting when recurring themes pop up like that in my life. I find it’s usually a good indicator that I should probably pay attention.
I know a lot of it has to do with all the transitions and questions I’m trying to deal with right now, as any twenty-something invariably understands, but it is a very interesting notion – this notion of pausing and noticing what that feels like.
We idealize the concept of “living in the moment” as an indicator of happiness or wellness. We know the importance of being present and thinking about the here and now as we have it, but we still live under the constant constraints of circumstances pulling us backwards or pushing us forwards. Deadlines, worries, grudges, anticipation, etc. leave us in a constant tug-of-war between the past and the future, and the idea of focusing on the present becomes a sort of unattainable utopia.
Language, itself, destroys our ability to simply be. For, as soon as we think about the moment that we’re living or try to describe it in any way, the moment has already passed and we lose that immediate sense of now-ness, of unadulterated presence. ‘Now’ is an eternal experience. But, when we try to define what ‘now’ means, it immediately becomes the past.
But, I refuse to believe that this conundrum of language and thought is the only way in which we can live. This is why I turn to yoga. Yoga brings us out of our minds and into experience. In yoga, all we have is now – feelings and emotions and tangible experience. The mind quiets and the body livens, which is always a refreshing change of pace.
I do understand, however, that unless you’re willing to move and dedicate your life to an ashram in India, life is going to consist of more than just living in the present moment. Nevertheless, you don’t necessarily have to come to a full-fledged stop to remain present in your life. Just taking the initiative to simply pause every now and then is a delightfully revitalizing feeling all by itself.
The problem, I find, is that so many of us don’t think it’s possible to ever really just live in the moment. We’re always too busy or too tired or too stressed out to notice that opportunities to be present arise all the time. In my experience, these moments of mindful presence usually sneak up on me in the most wonderful of ways. I’m usually caught so off guard by these rushes of awareness that I feel a chill run down my spine. It’s like my mind’s self-consciousness is poking me to pay attention.
My favorite moments like this happened at school. I would just be walking to class or sitting with my friends watching TV, and I would be overcome by a feeling, a rush really, of complete contentment. It was never during something out of the ordinary from my regular routine; it was actually usually the simultaneous regularity and amazingness of it all that I noticed most.
What times in your life are the easiest for you to feel present? When is it the hardest?