After recently re-watching the amazing (yet slightly unnerving) Gene Wilder in the classic film “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” I could not get the following verse, from the song “Pure Imagination” out of my head:“If you want to see paradise, just take a look around and view it.’’
Sometimes, enlightenment comes from the strangest places, and this sentence really struck a cord.
I came to the realization that paradise is quite often—all around us. We just have to open our eyes and see it. The problem with modern living is that we are often in such a rush to be busy in our busy lives, we miss the paradise that’s right under our nose.
Lives run at warp speed, and while we chase emails, social media, and 21st-century living, there is a danger that we’ll miss so many of life’s great moments. On top of this, when you throw in a few hangovers, our focus narrows further. Life becomes a ball of stress, worry, and mental distraction that drags away from the beauty of the present moment.
What’s to gain?
One of the great benefits of going alcohol free is that we regain some time and space back to slow down a little. By slowing down, I don’t mean dropping out or losing your edge—I simply mean staying present in the moment and enjoying what’s happening around you.
Once I stopped drinking, I regained the motivation to explore my inner world, and I discovered mindfulness meditation. This ancient practice is a wonderful skill to enhance one’s ability to stay present and enjoy life in the moment.
Life after hangovers.
Once I became “hangover free,” I had the vitality of mind to learn more about mindfulness and discover what was happening in my life. My world started to open up in ways I had never experienced before. A classic example was my walk to work. Like most of us, I had walked this walk hundreds of times with the sole purpose of getting from point A to point B. My head full of worries, concerns, or to-dos for the day ahead. I was running on autopilot; the lights were on but nobody was home.
I was a perfect city-worker clone. Running in the rat race of life. But one day, as my mindfulness practice developed, I did something crazy—I lifted my head, slowed down my walk, and looked around. I opened my ears to the noise of the city and discovered that I could hear birds singing. I noticed flowers that I never knew existed in tiny green clusters that had previously slipped under my radar. It was as if I was viewing this same old, well-worn route for the very first time.
It was simple; I was learning to stay in the present moment, and right in this moment, I didn’t have to worry about the day ahead. I could deal with these concerns when the time came. Right now, on this short walk to the office, I could simply breathe deeply and enjoy life.
This was such a liberating feeling, as well as a powerful indicator of the positive change in my life. Mindfulness was starting to make sense to me. It was not about sitting around doing nothing or trying to clear my mind all day. It was actually about building skills to notice the world around you and learning to enjoy its beauty without mental distraction about the past or future.
Put it to use.
Cultivating a slower, more mindful pace will start to reveal little moments of paradise that were previously unnoticed. Perhaps you will find them in the beauty of nature, the taste of a home-cooked meal, the eyes of your loving partner, or the softness of your child’s hand in yours. These are little moments of paradise on earth, right under your nose; all you have to do is look around and experience them.
Here’s an idea: Today, try and spend just a few minutes being totally present in the moment. You can take any situation—the coffee shop, the chat with your child after school, the walk outside—whatever it is, just slow down and stay present. Aim to keep your mind from chasing regrets into the past or worries into future, and simply stay in the moment. Breathe deeply as you maintain this focus, and see if you can find your own little bit of paradise.
Author: Andy Rammage
Image: movie still
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Supervising editor #1: Travis
Supervising editor #2: Sara