It is January 5th, 2016. It seems nearly impossible that another year has come and gone but it’s not mine to argue with the calendar. My goal, this year, will be the same as in the past: To stay present and fully enjoy each moment of every day. When I am successful at this endeavor, each day seems to move at a nice easy pace and, in truth, I am very seldom the least bit conscious of the passing of time.
So, how do I work to accomplish this? There are two simple things I strive to incorporate into every day:
In as much as is humanly possible I remain fully present in this current “now.” Understanding that the human mind is always either considering the future or dwelling on the past, I constantly re-direct my attention to the task at hand. If I am driving, to the best of my ability, I only drive. I keep my hands on the wheel, my eyes on the road, and my thoughts on the possible actions of the drivers who share the road with me.
Of course, this is not easy, because at every opportunity the mind will do what the mind does and it will be “off to the races” thinking about my destination or about my point of departure. I choose to experience this as if it were a game. It is not really “me” against my “mind,” but it kind of feels this way. The minute I notice my mind building stories about the past, the future, or something I am observing, I bring it back to whatever I am doing. This can be a constant challenge, particularly if one has not spent years practicing to create a quiet mind. But, it is doable. Like every other habitual behavior, it is merely a matter of practice, practice, practice.
A part of my daily work is to spend time in meditation. By this, I mean that I spend at least thirty minutes every day watching the way my mind works. I sit with the intention of being quiet and I re-emphasize this intention every time my mind sends up a thought for my consideration.Sometimes people ask me about my meditation practice. The most common question is “What is the best way to meditate?” My answer is always the same, “However you are most comfortable.” I have read dozens of books which insist that meditation must be done the way the author proposes. I have also had people tell me that you cannot meditate the way I choose to do it. None of this matters to the mind.
What matters is that you set aside time, with the intention of being quiet, and then you refuse to invest in any thoughts that arise. You can be walking, you can sit in a straight-back chair with your feet firmly planted on the floor and with your back straight. You can be quiet in the practice of Yoga, walking, or running. It does not matter, as long as your physical safety or the safety of others is not at risk. I do not advise practicing meditation while driving your car or while operating dangerous machinery, although the practice of meditation “at other times” can significantly improve your ability to pay attention to either of these experiences.
I have known people who are successful at meditating in their beds. I typically am not able to do this unless I sit up, because I tend to fall asleep. That is not to say that lying down is a bad way to meditate. In fact, one of my favorite ways, to be quiet, is to lie in the supine position (flat on my back with my face up) but I need to do this on the floor, instead of the comfortable bed.
Meditation helps one learn to have a quieter mind in their daily walk through life. I highly recommend it. In-fact, there is nothing I think is more important to one’s spiritual development. Having a quiet mind is so beneficial, it requires an essay of its own, just to list the many benefits. Staying in the now is very difficult for one who has not spent time training their minds to be more peaceful. Our minds are very skilled at making associations to things in our past. So, when we see something, it automatically triggers some type of reaction. The untrained mind can get caught up in these reactions and left unchecked, a whole day can pass with little to no time spent present to the actual task at hand. This is why time, sometimes, passes so quickly that we feel overwhelmed.
I urge you to invest in yourself and find a way to train your mind to be quieter. It can seem like a lot of work, because, quite frankly, it is a lifelong pursuit, but the key is just to allow a little time each day and fully commit to this daily ‘honoring’ of yourself. Once you have your first breakthrough, where you actually have an instant of complete silence, you will be hooked for life. You will soon crave your time in the silence and will feel that no day is complete without this self-investment.
It truly does slow time when you are able to be fully present in each new moment. I am not suggesting that the days will not roll through at a speed which seems to increase with each passing year, but I do promise that you will have more memorable moments in each of these hyper-speed-like days.
For this New Year, try to spend some time in the quiet each and every day, and practice being fully present in whatever task is at hand. If after attempting this for one month you think you are wasting your time, go back to your old way of being. My intuition and experience tell me that if you really invest in yourself, in this manner, you will be forever changed, and that change will be for the better, in my humble opinion.