Living in the Moment

Living in the Moment…
What does it really mean?
Does it mean to live it up, festivity and party every night?
Does it mean to live like there is no future and seek pleasure day after day as an hedonist?
Does it mean to spend all your livelihood for a trip to the Bahama resort at a whim?
Aren’t we living and breathing every moment? Aren’t we already living?
What exactly does it mean to live in the moment? It sounds so…cliché.

You may have your own thoughts on what it is. Below is what I understand about living in the moment.

Living in the moment means having awareness in the here and now. If you are unclear about what I mean by awareness, why don’t you read my previous post on awareness and zen first. Like I said before, awareness is inside of all us and therefore, we can all learn to live in the moment. Living in the moment can also be described as simply being, simply doing what we do in each moment, with awareness. Not letting our egotistic thoughts and emotions dominate us. Stop regretting about the past. Stop worrying about the future. This helps us to appreciate each moment, along with all the small things within each moment.

Sounds simple enough? Not so fast… Not so easy…

What happened is that we learn NOT to live in the moment as we are growing up. When we are kids, we can’t wait to become teenagers. When we are in high school, we can’t wait to get into college. When we are in college, we can’t wait to be working and making money. When we are finally in the corporate world, some of us want to go back to school and some of us get bored and can’t wait for retirement. When we are single, we want to find a girlfriend or boyfriend. When we are finally hooked up with someone, we want our single life back. By this point, we are all safe to say WTF. Additionally, from day 1 after birth, we are bombarded by advertising that conditions and always tells us this one more thing that we need to be happy and to keep up with the trend and the Jones.

If only I buy this LV bag, I’d be happy…
If only I afford this Lamborghini, I’d be happy…
If only I own a house, I’d be happy…

As it goes, we are constantly thinking about and longing for the next place we want to be, the next thing we want. We constantly chase these ideals that are thoughts in our heads instead of doing what matters.

On the other hand, we need to be cautious about our memory, as our past can become another form of ideal or baggage where we hold on to the happy times or stuck dwelling on the bad ones. Your past has contributed to what you are today, accept it and do what you can with what you have now.

Living in the moment is simply sitting if you are sitting. It is simply doing whatever you are doing. It does not involve thinking about the past. It does not involve thinking about the future. It only involves awareness and whatever that you are doing. As described above, our behaviors have been trained to do just the opposite, myself included, we need to practice in order to get better at it, just like everything else in life – practice makes perfect.

Meditation is a pronounced method to practice living in the moment and also awareness. Living in the moment and awareness go hand-in-hand. Moreover, I’d say awareness is a pre-requisite because it lets you see your thoughts as you start thinking about past and future. Now, it is not that you cannot learn to live in the moment if you don’t meditate. Meditation is a method that allows a faster pace of learning because you are only sitting during meditation instead of being in motion (i.e. It is quite hard to concentrate if your boss is talking to you). The stillness of just sitting makes it easier to practice awareness and notice your thoughts. As you sit, you maintain awareness and pay attention to your body, its tension, and the emotions and thoughts that appear in your mind. As you let the body relax and the thoughts come and go, you learn to simply sit and you come to understand better what it means to live in the moment.

Meditation is merely practicing awareness so that it becomes natural to you, so you are present in the moment everywhere you go, whatever you do.

Of course, there are other things we can do to practice living in the moment. In fact, things such as listening to music, playing the piano, dancing, drawing, riding motorcycle, playing a sport, etc., we are inherently able to do them as if we are living in the moment. As I listen to music, it’s easy for me to simply listen. As I used to fence in college, I simply fence. In those moments, the only things that exist are my opponent, myself, and our blades. There is no room for external thoughts. It is easy to be in the moment in the favorite activities. Now we must do so in the non-so-favorable ones.

You can practice living in the moment by applying this “simply doing” concept on other things. For example, when you are talking to someone, you listen and focus solely on the conversation partner, instead of thinking what to eat for lunch or which candidate you’d vote for president. Even if your thought starts to drift, your awareness will let you see that you are thinking about something else and then you can shift your focus back to your conversation partner. As for me right now, I am writing this post and its my only focus, which should allow me to write it to the best of my ability. In other words, an analogy can be drawn between “living in the moment” and “doing the best in what you are doing in the moment”.

Don’t mistaken “living in the moment” as in giving up thoughts, past memory, and plans for future. Living in the moment can provide a new sense of appreciation and enjoyment in everything we do everyday. If you learn to live in the moment, you learn also to find peace and joy in every moment, and thinking and worrying less about past and future.

And why else do we want to find peace and joy like said? Because then we can have a good time without chasing material goods and learn not to be dependent on external means to be happy. Kinda like knowing how to have a great time without being drunk.

As any topic in Zen is quite difficult to write about and my principles and philosophy center heavily about Zen, my writings may lack certain clarity. Please feel free to contact me if you have any question.

Originally posted 2008-02-05 00:38:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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