When I first started getting excited about meditation, a friend recommended me a book called Be Here Now. What a stupid title, I thought. Where else am I going to be?
A week later it suddenly clicked for me. While our bodies are always in the present moment, a large proportion of the time our minds are not. And when we’re thinking about the past or the future we disconnect from what we’re actually experiencing through our senses in the moment. We’re wallowing in what might be or what was, living in a fiction that exists only in our minds.
Likewise, when I first heard it, I didn’t really understand John Lennon’s “Life’s what happens while you’re making other plans.” until I noticed I was planning dinner whilst eating lunch and fantasising about the next holiday whilst swimming in the sea during the current one.
I made ‘be here now’ into a mantra that I would repeat whenever I noticed my mind wandering off: while someone was talking, whilst walking, working, eating, reading or whatever.
This was probably one of the most significant realisations of my life as it changed my approach to my whole experience of being alive. Instead of allowing myself to drift through the day on autopilot, I resolved to actively keep bring my attention back to the present moment and feel more.
I realised that when I did this I connected with people more deeply in conversation, and they opened up to me more. I noticed more of my surroundings while I was travelling from A to B, and took interest in them. I was able to concentrate for longer periods of time and therefore work more effectively and read for longer periods. I savoured my food more and changed what I drank and ate as I noticed more how what I ingested affected my mind, body and energy levels.
It’s not easy to be present. We’re all drifting off constantly and it takes a conscious effort to be aware of what’s happening. One of our mind’s features that makes it hard is that it is like Teflon for good experiences and Velcro for negative ones.
Think about the last time you ate a piece of chocolate. How much of your attention was focused on eating it while it was happening, and how much did you think about it afterwards? Chances are you ate it whilst also looking at a screen, talking to someone or thinking about something else and didn’t spend much time reliving the pleasure of the experience afterwards.
Now think about the last time someone upset or annoyed you. If it really did get your goat I imagine it was replaying in your mind again and again and again…
The only way to change this is to retrain your mind! When you have a pleasant experience, like eating chocolate, focus on it and savour it. When your mind wanders off into worry or ruminating about that bugger who upset you, remind yourself, “Be here, now.” It’s the only moment there is, and ever will be, so we might as well do our best to experience it to the full.