Have you ever noticed yourself saying, or thinking, that as soon as you get through this week, this project, this semester, this…whatever, then things will be okay? Of course, you know what inevitably happens. This week becomes this month, this semester becomes this year, and the finish line keeps moving. There’s always another project, another deadline, another challenging season to give you an excuse to not check in to the present, and to instead spend it in anticipation of an easier, less complicated future. Then, by the time the future gets to you, it’s just another “now,” full of things to “get through” and reasons to, well, hold your breath.
On the surface, it might seem like a crafty way to get through tough times. Just shift your focus to the future, which you envision as unequivocally better. And yes, knowing that difficult experiences are temporary can help you get through them. But in doing so, you miss the only thing you know you actually have, which is what’s right here in front of you. What’s happening right now. And if we’re being honest, there’s a lot of good stuff in there. There are the “little things” like sunshine and music and chocolate, but there are also big moments that we show up for without being present in. They pass us by before we even realize they were there because we weren’t paying attention. Our minds were elsewhere, escaping discomfort and missing joy as a result.
Not to mention, the moment also misses you. By that I mean that when you’re only half paying attention to the things, people and experiences that are right in front of your face, then they only get part of you. Those challenges you are trying to surmount don’t get all of your strength, the people who are talking to you don’t really get heard, and the happiness that is there goes unnoticed. You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by keeping your eye on the future, and obviously, you have to give some thought to it, but leaning on it completely at the expense of the present is a sure fire way to miss your life.
One of the benefits of mindfulness is developing the ability to sit with discomfort. It makes us more capable of being in the present moment, even if we aren’t exactly enjoying it. Being able to do that not only makes us stronger in that moment, and better able to address the challenges it brings, but also makes it less likely that we’ll miss the good stuff. Those challenges may even start to look a little less daunting when you stare them down instead of trying to look past them. Life is what you make of it, and at least in part, what you tell yourself about it. So take a deep breath, check in and pay attention. Right here is where you are, and right now is what you’ve got, all the time. Don’t miss it.
Photo credit: Luis Llerena