I want my life to be comprised of more mindful moments.
A few years ago, I skimmed through a book called Turning the Mind into an Ally, by Sakyong Mipham.
In this book, he says:
“When we experience a moment of peacefully abiding [gradual reduction of thoughts], it seems so far-out. Our mind is no longer drifting, thinking about a million things. The sun comes up or a beautiful breeze comes along—and all of a sudden we feel the breeze and we are completely in tune. We think, ‘That’s a very spiritual experience. It’s a religious experience. At least worth a poem, or a letter home.’ But all that’s happening is that for a moment we’re in tune with our mind. Our mind is present and harmonious. Before, we were so busy and bewildered that we didn’t even notice the breeze. Our mind couldn’t even stay put long enough to watch the sun come up, which takes two and a half minutes. Now we can keep it in one place long enough to acknowledge and appreciate our surroundings. Now we are really here. In fact, being in the present moment is ordinary; it’s the point of being human.”
That was the first time I read something about mindfulness that truly and completely hit home. I immediately experienced this sense of loss for all of the moments that I probably missed throughout my life because I was choosing to live inside my mind rather than in the present.
In these past few years, I have tried to integrate more mindful moments into my life—more moments of being truly engaged with the incredible wonders around me: both large and small.
I think of my wedding day. I remember the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions that surrounded those 24 hours. I always pictured that the day would be comprised of total bliss. In reality, there were a lot more emotions than bliss—because I chose to live in my own head for so much of it.
However, there was one brief glimpse of peaceful abiding that will stay with me forever. It wasn’t during our vows, it wasn’t during our first dance, it wasn’t during our cake cutting or any of those stereotypical “big moments.” Instead it was during the song where my husband and I invited everyone to join us on the dance floor. Why? Because it was the only time I forced myself to slow down and just breathe.
As the crowd gathered around us, I only saw him. I saw how he looked at me. I felt his arms around me. I saw the love in his eyes and I held him so tight because I knew the moment wouldn’t last for long. Everyone else disappeared and we danced so close it felt like nothing could come between us. Of all the moments on my wedding day—this is the one I will cherish forever because it was the only time I truly allowed myself to let go of my thoughts, planning and neuroticism and just—be.
I remember the first time my husband and I took a trip together, a few months into our relationship. We traveled around California and explored everything from the red wood trees to the heart of San Francisco to the incredible beauty of the coastline. But, none of this stands out to me because I was so focused on seeing the next thing that I never stopped to appreciate what was in front of me.
On our second to last day we decided to take a stroll through a little park in San Francisco. As we were about to rush out of the park and onto our next adventure, it hit me. These simple moments are the ones I should be cherishing.
So, I forced us to sit down and just take it in. We stopped in our tracks and drank up the scenes in this park—a park very much like any other. But, this is the mental image I have when I picture our trip to California, because it was the only time we paused long enough to live in the moment.
I also reflect on the last time I saw my grandfather. Deep down, my heart told me it was the end. I remember that my mind immediately filled with thoughts, sweeping me away with the fear of losing him. It quickly yanked me out of the present moment as I found myself planning for a future without him instead of embracing the time we had left.
So, I stopped. I sat with him and rubbed his back as he drifted into sleep. I watched him as he calmly rested and escaped from his pain for a little while. I will cherish this forever because I was able to catch myself leaving the moment and I fought against it. I chose to remain with him instead.
These are the biggest things that come to mind—but there are so, so many more.
The reality is, when we are truly being present, long drives become more peaceful because we are focusing on the scenery rather than on a racing mind.
Songs become more beautiful because we really listen to the words and let the music move us.
The wave of tranquility during meditation truly has the power to bring tears to our eyes if we could quiet our thoughts long enough to reach a place of inner peace.
Daydreaming, future planning and past deconstructing can be more tempting for us to ponder. But, the moments when our minds are filled with clutter won’t be the moments we remember.
So, I encourage you to practice mindfulness. Practice yoga. Grow a practice of meditation.
I believe that when we choose to live in our minds, even standing at the top of Mount Everest can still feel like we’re only half living. But, when we choose to live in the moment, a simple walk in the park can imprint on our souls forever.
Author: Alissa Lastres
Editor: Catherine Monkman