“Only that day dawns to which we are awake,” Henry David Thoreau writes in Walden.
How many of our days have never dawned? How many have we slept through? No, not the ones when we’re in bed asleep, but the ones where we’re supposedly awake.
When we’re at work we think about home; when we’re home, we think about work. We’re so busy remembering and anticipating, we forget right now. We sit at our desk and dream of our vacation and when we’re on the beach, we check our e-mail and voice mail.
We think about the things we didn’t do and the things we’ll have to do when we get back. We’re thousands of miles away, but we’re still at the office.
Even when we’re here, we aren’t really. We’ve all left work, walked out to the car, unlocked it and drove home with only a vague recollection of how it happened.
It’s a good thing our sub-conscious is more aware than our objective mind or we’d be a hood ornament on a cement truck barrelling down Bridge Hill.
We wish the hours and days away. We longed for the kids to grow, so we could have more time. When they did grow up, we ached for the time we spent with them at swim meets, hockey games and dance recitals.
We can’t get back those moments, no matter how we regret what we didn’t do, but if we’re not mindful, we’ll lose this moment feeling guilty about the past.
We need to be mindful now, to be aware and conscious of this moment.
“Mindfulness is a simple concept,” Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in Wherever You Go, There You Are. “Its power lies in its practice and application.
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.
"This kind of attention nurtures greater awareness, clarity and acceptance of present-moment reality. It wakes us up to the fact that our lives unfold only in moments.
"If we are not fully present for many of those moments, we may not only miss what is most valuable in our lives, but fail to realize the richness and the depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation.”
We might not want to go off in the woods for two years like Thoreau, but we can reclaim our life here and now. We start where we are, but accept that our mind will wander because the dream life is seductive. It’s an addiction and the only way to beat the habit is to go cold turkey.
That’s when we find out we don’t control our mind, that we’re just along for the ride. Other than moments of pure concentration, of attention, we don’t control where it goes. We might want to go here, but we always seem to end up there.
Doubt that statement? Pick a topic, any topic and decide to think about it and absolutely nothing else for five minutes. Too tough? Try a minute, 30 seconds, 10 seconds.
Most of us are no more in charge of our minds than tomorrow’s weather, but we can re-claim the bastion of self.
“If we can stay focused in the present, in the eternal now, the grace of the present will open up possibilities for us,” Michael Ray writes in The Highest Goal.
“When we make the present all there is, the past and the future — which are the dwelling places of the VOJ (Voice of Judgment) — become only tiny blips in our consciousness.
“You have to decide whether you are going to live in VOJ-time or Self-time.”
We’ve all been completely in the moment, when our senses sharpened, when we expanded into life, instead of constricting, when we could feel life pulse though us, when we felt aligned everything.
Maybe it was for only a moment, but for that fraction of a second, for that eternity, we knew, we knew…. And since we did it once, we can do it again, again and forever again.
It has become a cliché, but this moment is all we have and when we flit it away, we’re wishing our lives away. Our life is a continuum of moments concentrated in the present. If we don’t seize this moment, we let life slip away.
It’s a big, difficult, long, but life-changing task. Instead of wandering off into a favourite daydream — like Alice down the rabbit hole — we have to stay constantly present in every moment, especially the ones we don’t like.
The mission that often seems impossible is to bring the mind back every time it wanders, and it will since that’s what it does, what it has done, what we’ve allowed it to do.
But we take our life back one moment at a time. Pouring coffee, setting the microwave, throwing tea bags into the compost, stopping at a red light — and making sure the mind doesn’t keep going — can ground us if we’re aware.
The breath and body can anchor us in the present. When we drift away, we bring ourselves back to the breath; when we do something, we do it with attention.
When we put down our keys, we do it consciously. When we stand, we feel our feet on the floor; when we eat, we chew food completely before reaching for the next mouthful.
Everything we do, from brushing our teeth to washing dishes or cleaning out the kitty litter, can be as much of a ritual as the marriage ceremony or the mass if we invest it with the same care, attention and mindfulness.
“Walk with reverence; do one thing at a time,” James Twyman writes in Emissary Of Light.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.