“Even when we don’t know how long our journey will be, there is never more than this: one step, one breath, one moment—now.”
Each morning we find ourselves at the beginning of a new day. Many experiences, activities, and people are waiting for us. We open our eyes, we become more awake, we rise from the bed, follow our morning ritual, we start thinking, feeling, reacting; we get really hungry…
In this way we experience the constant flow of time. Nevertheless it is always like the very beginning of the morning: always one moment after the next, fresh and new. Something gets done, duty calls, contacts are made, thoughts, breaks in thought, and challenges queue up and pass as tiny moments one after the other. Most of these moments we don’t even notice. They are like drops in a river that meld into one another. Together they form the minutes, hours, days, months, and years of our life.
Really, our life always only happens in this moment. We can only experience what is right here and exactly now in this moment. Only now can we actually experience; we notice now what really is. Now a previous moment has passed and a next moment hasn’t arrived. These brief moments are so ephemeral—fleeting contact points with what is, fleeting contacts with all of our senses. They all only happen now. The contacts might inspire memories or anticipations, but they always happen in this one moment. And as soon as they happen they are gone.
Do we like to notice these moments we experience? Or do we like to see the hours and days just rush by (especially when times feel challenging and exhausting)? Isn’t it true that we sometimes would prefer to see time moving faster (and at other times more slowly)? When do we really feel alive?
Often we don’t really want to feel what is, because it’s not as we would like it to be. Maybe it’s very stressful or even frightening and painful. In highly challenging situations, we have learned to function on autopilot, not quite there. Sometimes we literally don’t notice what our food tastes like when we try to fill our stomach during a short lunch break, or when we drink something while attending to a difficult conversation. Often we are so caught up in our thoughts relating to the tensions and activities of the day that we hardly remember how we returned home. Even during our vacation it might take some time to slowly regain some peace and openness.
How good that our human system allows for these different modes and dynamics. At times we can seriously rev up our system. But this only works in the long run if we have enough down time to find our way back into a balance of activity and rest. Then we can see again where flowers are blooming, notice the wonderful smell after a summer rain, and feel how our body is moving.
All of our senses have the power to bring us back to this current moment. Even in very challenging situations we can sense how we are sitting, walking, where our skin is touched by the wind, the sun, and our clothing. We can notice how the air is streaming in and out of our nostrils.
If we really sense what is, we can also notice how it is for us. Our preferences and reactions are often right there with our sensations. We notice what is, how it is, and how we react to it. This is the starting point of our authentic aliveness. We can notice and relate to everything, and this is how we integrate it into our life. Expanding our ability to be with any moment is where our development continues.
There are many contemplative methods we can use. How we use them, with what intention, and on which ground, will determine the future direction of our life and of our experience. Mindfulness and awareness are qualities that allow us to find a deeper experience in whatever we do.
The quality of deeper experience is sometimes called presence. Presence might be easiest to notice during vacations. Don’t we love free days? Being in beautiful places and doing things we enjoy—this is natural openness to what is happening, natural presence. (And even then time seems to fly.) But the more we open to present experience, the deeper the impressions are and the more we will remember. This gives us the feeling of having truly lived. What do we remember from a wonderful vacation? We will find these deep impressions returning to us.
This one current moment is the key to a feeling of aliveness and to the authentic experience of what is. And the best thing is that we can train this way of life and experiencing—not just on vacation, but in any moment.
I wish you all a week full of present moments, and I especially wish that many of those moments are enjoyable ones.