As a part of our growing up years, we were always taught to “pay attention” or “be present;” I am not really sure how many of us really followed it and really paid attention. I certainly did not! As a kid and up until now I have always been the person who was either living in the past or the future as most of the human brains do as it’s their basic nature. During my school days, my teachers would be teaching and I would be far away in my own dreamland (now I understand the reason behind why I sucked in science). The only time I would be present is when my best friend would be cracking hilarious jokes or would be doing some mischief to trouble the teachers.
We, humans, love to multitask and suck at it big time, believe it or not! According to studies, only two out of ten people succeed at multitasking the rest eight generally fail. During my last job, my boss always wanted me to multitask and I knew I couldn’t, due to which I would be stressed all the time as I always thought that my work wasn’t good enough. I was always unhappy due to my habit of being lost, at times during meetings I would lose out on important details or forget the context of a conversation with someone because I would choose to daydream over being present. I did face a lot of criticism from my boss as well as a few friends and family members but I didn’t change. I was extremely happy with my thoughts of the past and future, occasionally present, maybe!
Not long ago I had an epiphany. I was on a holiday and so I had gone to an amazing museum which displayed the rich artistic heritage of Asia. I stood at one of the galleries that showcased ancient Chinese Ceramics; all the designs were very simple and were based on their day-to-day happenings; something as simple as how an early morning ritual in their city or town looked like. Had the artist been a person like me, I bet he would not be able to paint each and every detail so beautifully as he would have missed half of it by just being lost. Just observing them made me realise the importance of being present. Those intricate details about their day to day lives just blew my mind away.
The piece of art that changed my outlook towards life drastically.
P.S- don’t judge, I am a pathetic photographer
I kept looking at that particular piece of art for nearly forty minutes to an hour and kept analysing the times that I wasted by not being present and the experiences that I didn’t experience because of wandering around. At that very moment, I decided to live in the present rather than my past or future.
Was it easy?
Are you kidding me!
It wasn’t easy at all!
My mind would concentrate for ten seconds and snap, it would start wandering again. Earlier, I would let my mind just go but this time I made the conscious decision of not doing so. As my mind would wander, I would take a deep breath and bring back my attention to the present moment. This process really helped me a lot and I started enjoying things much more. I was aware of my surroundings as well as my observing skills improved immensely. I was just happy being in that particular moment. This feeling of being present and the joy that it brought wasn’t something that I had experienced before. I actually never thought that something as simple as being present could bring such beautiful moments in my life. It was surreal!
For the very first time, I thoroughly enjoyed my vacation. While on my stay I also got a chance to see my favourite band perform live (all thanks to my best friend). It was one of the those ‘too good to be true moment for me.’ I stood there completely HYPNOTISED by their performance. I enjoyed every second from standing in the queue (which went down to 2 or 3 storeys) to just seeing them perform. I soaked in every bit of their presence that I could. I knew this wasn’t something that I would get to experience again and again. That moment I told myself that I would curse myself my whole life if I even missed a second of their performance. Did I miss it? Hell no! This vacation has been much more than just a vacation. It has been a great learning experience. I have really learned to value time and people in my life.
Being present is not something that I just learned in an afternoon. No! I am still learning and still struggling. Being Present or Mindfulness is not easy, it requires practice and trust me, a LOT of practice. The biggest problem we humans face is the lack of focus. We fail to pay attention to every aspect of what we are doing, to our body, to our sensations and thoughts. While we attend to a particular thought or task, we all have those other jumping thoughts as well. The challenge now is to be aware of those jumping thoughts and lovingly come back to our original task.
Do it once, twice, thrice or as many times as you want, don’t stress. But just do it. And do it now!
If you’re reading just read don’t think about the next chore, if you’re eating just eat – please for god sake stop talking or texting on the phone, while exercising just focus on it and the benefits of it on your body. There will always be bills to pay, phone calls to make and emails to reply.
The moment is now… now… now… Witness everything and as much as you can. Let the rest go.
Just by bringing about a small shift in my thoughts I learned to fully acknowledge every situation and person present in my life. Every moment was an amazing experience. Just saying “be present” isn’t enough! Easier said than done. I get it! However, by just practising everyday bit by bit it can definitely happen. Having said that a very effective method to practice mindfulness is to meditate. Gift yourself just five minutes a day and see yourself mesmerised by the beauty of life.
Practice, over and over again, don’t get overwhelmed, take small, easy and beautiful steps. Each step is a surprise in itself and each practice helps you find your calm in the midst of chaos.
“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis
on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without
rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.
Only this moment is life.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh