Many of us have been told we should just "live in the moment," but what does that actually mean? Be more spontaneous and go with the flow? See the world with a beginner’s mind?
Moments are slippery and ephemeral things — they happen within the blink of an eye and vanish just as rapidly. Miss too many moments, and you miss your entire life.
Here are four keys that will help you get to know every moment and return to a childlike way of being — one in which you experience everything around you with a more profound sense of wonder.
1. Experience the world with all of your senses.
I used to train actors at theater schools in Manhattan. Actors are in the business of being fully alive in the moment, and sharpening the five senses is one of the first things they work on in acting school. To help them do so, I'd use sensory isolation exercises to deliberately heighten the experience of each sense. Cool, right?
This helped the actors more fully experience the richness of their physical reality — even mundane moments suddenly attained a sumptuous beauty. But there was also an unexpected side benefit: Because the senses are a powerful conduit to memory, a moment in the present could become richly linked to moments from the past during these exercises.
Even if you don't end up going to acting school (though I'd recommend acting classes to absolutely everyone), you can still work on consciously returning to your senses. Technology brutally inhibits our ability to fully live in the moment, so try experimenting with periods of gadget-less time. Start with an hour at a time and go longer if you can. Notice how much more you notice when some of the distractions, fun as they may be, are gone.
2. Crave meaning.
In traditional psychology, making meaning is seen as a deliberate cognitive process — one that often happens in retrospect. Life connoisseurs, however, have mastered the art of sensing meaning in the moment. Buddhists call this prajna wisdom. You probably remember a moment or two when you met someone and a little voice inside you instantly said, "This will be a friend for life.” That’s prajna wisdom.
Learn how prajna speaks to you — whether it's with a voice, a whisper, a sudden sense of calm. A feeling of peace. A sudden lifting of a mental cloud. A stellar inkling that this moment, this situation, this social constellation, is right. As you cultivate your awareness of prajna, prajna wisdom will suddenly pop up a lot more frequently.
3. Wave-ride energy.
If you like the ocean, you probably love the experience of riding a wave — catching it, riding it, surrendering to it. Well, every moment of every day, energy waves roll toward us and move through us.
We tend to place these everyday forms of energy into four categories: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. In many Western cultures, we tend to favor mental energy above all other forms. The energy of a thought can be a powerful activator for creativity and change, but it can also become an obsessive force that prevents us from enjoying the gifts of other energy forms.
Want to become more conscious of all levels of energy? Conduct spontaneous energy check-ins. Do a quick scan to see what's happening with your thoughts, your physical energy, your emotions, and your spirit in that moment. Over time, these check-ins will create a keen sensitivity to your own energy signals and you'll be rewarded with the gift of momentum. Momentum happens when we notice an energy signal and ride the wave it presents.
4. Make time stand still.
In our fast-paced lives, it's easy to stumble from one appointment to the next until an entire day feels like one giant blur. We know that slowing down would be a terrific idea, but we simply don’t know how.
Meditation is a great place to start. When we meditate, we begin to detach from the ceaseless chatter in our brains. We release the tension in the body and the desire to get busy and distract ourselves. As we surrender to this detachment, we begin to experience a sense of peace that we can carry into our everyday activities.
These four keys to slow down time are subtle and sweet. Apply them in your own life, and watch as more luminous moments appear all around you.
For more information on how to successfully live in the moment, turn to my new book, The Moment: A Practical Guide to Living a Mindful Life in a Distracted World, available where books are sold.
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