Sometimes, it takes a shocking incident to remind us just how precious each and every moment is. If we’re lucky, we wake up to this fact before tragedy touches us personally. In my life, there have been many incidents – some deeply personal, others in the lives of people I know, that have rocked me to my core, and renewed my commitment to making every minute in this precious life count.
Last week, I heard that the wife of a colleague – a 32-year old woman pregnant with their fourth child – died in childbirth. I could hardly believe that this vibrant, energetic, amazing young woman was gone, and her premature son was in the ICU clinging to life. What must that family be going through? I can’t really even imagine it.
There is no way to know what the next moment will bring. We can’t change what came before. The only thing that really, truly matters is the moment we are living in, and the way we choose to experience these moments.
Reminders Are All Around Us — Listen to Them!
Yes, I said choose – because everything we do is, indeed, a choice. But sometimes, the only right choice is to let go of control and simply be.
I was talking to a friend yesterday about the movie Breakthrough, which she had just seen. She talked about how inspiring the story was – particularly the moments when the characters were harnessing the power of positivity, coming together in the moment because there was nothing else they could do.
One scene really moved her. It involved an immense group of people coming to stand outside the hospital windows showing their support for a critically injured 14-year-old boy and his family. These people were completely in the moment – there wasn’t anything else for them to do.
While this was a scene in a movie, the story is based in reality, and it’s a great reminder that sometimes we simply have to surrender. There’s nothing more we can do but give in to the moment and have faith that things will work out exactly as they are intended to.
I haven’t seen the movie, but I was intrigued enough to look up the real-life story online. As I watched an interview with the real John Smith, I heard him make the most powerful statement: “Cherish every moment you have…We’re not promised tomorrow.” What an amazing reminder to notice every single minute, to embrace what you have and who you are, not what you want or who you wish you were.
This has been my goal for years, but I need reminders too. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day stressors, the demands and expectations of society, the wants and needs of loved ones, and forget to appreciate what’s happening right now.
3 Ways to Stay in the Present
There’s no easy way to break old cycles – it takes hard work and commitment, like anything worth doing. But to get you started, here are three actions that help me stay grounded and connected to the present moment – I hope they help you do the same!
1. Practice Mindfulness
Just like anything else, staying present takes practice. Setting aside just five or ten minutes per day can make so much difference. When you first wake up, or right before you go to sleep at night, make a point to notice exactly what’s happening in your body. Focus on breathing deeply, in and out, and recognize how you are feeling. If thoughts or worries begin to creep in, acknowledge them, then focus on your breath again.
You can try this when you’re eating too – think only of the bite you are putting into your mouth, how it feels, tastes, smells. When your practice becomes second nature, you may find yourself pausing to appreciate and enjoy what’s happening right that minute – even when the rest of the moments in your immediate future seem full of stress or uncertainty. That’s the surrender we all need!
2. Don’t Try to Multitask
I know you think you can – it’s a trap so many women fall into. But the truth is, none of us can do more than one thing at a time. We can do many things in quick succession, which is what most of us mean when we talk about multitasking.
When you give whatever is at hand your full attention, you’re much less likely to make a mistake that needs fixing later. You won’t miss the important conversation your child needs to have. You’ll notice that your partner is ready to connect.
3. Let Go of the Past
This is so easy to say, and so very hard to do. But think about it for a minute — what purpose is served by clinging to a moment that is gone, that will never be changed? Of course we want to learn from past mistakes and choices – I’m not suggesting you forget everything that came before. But don’t dwell on it. Don’t keep turning it over in your head wondering how you could have changed the outcome. No matter what you could have done, the moment is past and you did what you did. Focus on what you can do now, in this moment, to live the life you want.
This Moment is All You Have — Live it to the Fullest!
It’s great to have dreams and goals, but you have to enjoy the path as you pursue them. No moment is guaranteed except the one you are living in. We have no idea what tomorrow will bring – or even if we have a tomorrow! That’s why it’s so important to be sure you’re doing what’s right for your family – and yourself – every step of the way. Life is precious – savor each moment!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD