“Living in the Moment” has been a pop-culture catchphrase since the spiritual revolution of the 1960s. It’s a phrase originally borrowed from Eastern traditions that became trendy through media attention and popular courses on transcendental meditation and other spiritual practice. Now of course, it’s an American mainstay. But what does it really mean? What relevance does it have in today’s more hectic world? More importantly, how do you transform a catchphrase into a useful tool?
In a nutshell, to live in the moment means to be centered and focused on a single situation. Not so easy when things are not going our way, and especially when we’re also being pulled in a dozen digital directions at once. People I have mentored complain that when they’re in a painful situation being in the moment doesn’t help, and in fact, hinders.
For instance, why would anyone choose to live fully in a moment of sheer hell? Why not drift back into the past or wander into the future for answers or comfort? But consciously or subconsciously drifting to the sentimental safety of the past or the projected safety of the future is useless and can even be dangerous. Why? Because no matter how challenged we are, any retreat is a false retreat.
Some of the challenges we experience are actually rooted in past misconceptions and assumptions that our lives should be easier than they are, or that the past was a simpler time. Or maybe we had the idea that if we followed all the rules or at least most of them, our lives would reflect order and remain under our control. In that case, we experience anything outside of that control as undeserved torment.
Or maybe we squirm out of the intense discomfort of “the moment” by leaping frantically ahead to the future. But jumping into the future at best creates false hope and at worst, fear and anxiety, because we can do nothing about it. Our bodies can’t meet our minds in this imagined future place, and our physical systems go crazy in “fight or flight” trying to get us there. Ultimately, when an outcome is unknown, the future contains more fear than comfort.
Especially in a terrible moment we require all our resources to be intact, integrated, and at our disposal. If half our minds are wandering in the past, we have far less resource to cope. If half our minds are frozen in the fear of all that could happen, we can’t possibly affect an optimal outcome. We must be fully present. To be fully present we have to call ourselves out of the past and the future and bring our minds to center. Meditation helps. Outside of rhythmic breathing, focus and emptying mind/thoughts, there is a particular visualization that always helps me. I hope it helps you.
1. Sit quietly in a private space.
2. Close your eyes and breathe evenly in and out for five minutes, minimum.
3. Going back through the day, recall anything negative that occurred — any argument, altercation, or event perceived to be negative.
4. Visualize yourself in that place — a percentage of your spirit/energetic body having remained there.
5. Forgive yourself completely, as well as anyone else involved.
6. Recall your spirit/energy back.
7. Center it within yourself and feel the energy return.
8. Repeat this for each negative event that has bothered you until your energy is measurably refreshed.
9. If you are not spent, go back further into the past, and do the same, but not more than five incidents at once.
10. Over time, return as far back as you can until you have forgiven/refreshed everything in memory.
If you do this meditation daily, you will have much more focus and resource to deal with your everyday life and the inevitable challenges that ensue. In time you will begin to understand what it truly means to be integrated and “in the moment.”
As an integrated being, you will experience more peace and find yourself dealing with difficult situations in a more even manner. Getting there requires daily work, but it is well worth the effort. On any given day at any given time, the only power we have is in that moment. Don’t squander it.