Even though I understand the benefit of living in the now and seizing the day there are times when I get bogged down worrying about some aspect of the future. Likewise, sometimes I find myself thinking back on the past and things I didn’t handle as well as I think I should have. When this happens I try to remember the wise words of Matthieu Ricard, the French Buddhist monk who said, ‘When the mind is full of memories and preoccupied by the future, it misses the freshness of the present moment.’
The results of a study suggest if people are thinking about a time other than the present they are less happy than if they are concentrating on the moment. This was even when they were thinking about pleasant things. Therefore, it seems living in the moment, also known as mindfulness makes us happier. Mindful people have also been found to enjoy better health and be more energetic. They show more empathy, are more emotionally secure, have higher self esteem and worry less about their weaknesses.
Every day there are many things we don’t really notice because we are preoccupied with the past or the future. We worry about the mistakes we have made and petty arguments with those around us. We worry about how to pay the bills and our minds can be full of ‘what ifs’, all those worries about things that might never happen.
It is easy not to enjoy today because we aren’t looking at the now with a positive outlook. The sky is grey, the weather is cold and it is raining. Therefore it is a lousy day. Or is it? The garden is getting a good soaking and the plants are benefitting. You don’t need to water the garden which saves you time and a bit of money.
When you are outside on this wet day you can choose to think how cold and miserable it is or concentrate on how bracing the fresh air is. Can you smell the gum leaves or the pines because of the rain? Is there a bird reflected in the puddle it is standing in? If the sun came out, would you notice the rainbow or would your mind be somewhere else?
When you step into your house do you notice how warm and cosy it feels compared to outside? If the house has been empty all day it may be chilly inside. You can choose to put on the heater or get changed into comfy warm clothes and have a hot drink or a cup of soup. Then you can savour the flavour and enjoy the heat of what you are drinking. Or will you be thinking of all the chores you need to do?
Have you ever decided to turn on some music and then realised it is already on but you weren’t listening to it? If you are actually listening, noticing the different instruments or the voice of the singer you are practising mindfulness. What other joys are you unaware of? The moment is being wasted and you can’t get it back. Today only comes once.