Between waking up late this morning and rushing through your domestic routine; to finding a pile of work waiting at the office; to returning home to realise your kid’s exams start the next day; to bickering with your partner over finances; to falling into a restless sleep at night; you’ve had this thought quite a few times: What a bugger of a life.
When that happens, hold on for a minute and remember this scientific fact: Like all living beings in the animal and plant kingdom, if nature has put you in a certain environment, it has also given you the tools to deal with it.
And the only tool we need, as urban, busy, pre-occupied, mind-dominated human beings is our ability to live in the moment. It is a form of yoga; it can be done anywhere; and once we get the hang of it, nothing is too difficult to handle.
People have different ways and preferences to help them live in the moment. Some get their kick from physical exertion, like exercise or trekking. Some get it from prayer. Some from cooking or cleaning out the cupboards. Some read. Some hit the jacuzzi at a spa. There is no fixed path; it is merely a matter of finding ‘your thing’ and then doing it.
What happens when we are doing that one thing that requires all of our energy and focus? We stop living in the past and the future, and are deeply present in the now. The yogis would tell you that’s the only way to be, really. According to Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God – or even a modern-day physicist for that matter – time is not horizontal (going from past to future or from one moment to another) but vertical (going from eternity to eternity in the single point that is the present). The Buddha called it 3,000 realms in a single moment. It’s common sense: The past is gone; you no longer have it. The future is in your mind, imagination, fantasy; it doesn’t exist. What do you have? The present moment, of course.
And yet, despite knowing that, you may still find your mind whirling with thoughts, regrets, plans, schedules, guilt, worries for the past or the future. It is a hell of a monkey, this mind, say the ancient texts. It must be controlled before it wreaks havoc.
Learn the act of ‘thoughtlessness’ – also variously called ‘mindfulness’ or ‘life awareness’. It is not about being cut off from the world you live; it is about being acutely aware of every single moment of it – from the pleasure to the pain, from the heaven to the hell to everything in between.
It’s useful to learn how to go into your ‘inner body’. Spiritual author Eckhart Tolle describes it as feeling sensations from inside out, instead of from outside in. He says the body loves the attention. The Art of Living course teaches you to concentrate on your breath, feeling the sensation of the air going in and out all the way down to your stomach. What does concentrating on your body / breath do for you? It kicks the monkey out of your head, and lets you connect with your own life force. The monkey will return, no doubt, but you can simply kick it out again, and go back to breathing, relaxing, being.
Do this whenever you have a few minutes: Standing in a queue, getting a pedicure done, waiting for a mail to download. In addition, make life choices that allow you to live in the moment more often: Choose instrumental music over the cacophony of the FM; walk instead of driving; observe children and animals whenever possible; listen wholeheartedly when someone speaks; laugh more. Even if you must suffer pain, feel it, don’t turn away. It is a powerful way of overcoming it. Once you’ve been there, absorbed its acuteness, honoured it, it cannot debilitate you. It only fuels you further.
When you live in the moment, colours are brighter, sensations are more intense, feelings are partners, people are just people. And the monkey in your head? It’s tamed and ready to do your bidding.