“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
~Writer and cartoonist Allen Saunders
The idea of living in the moment to experience greater happiness isn’t new. The Saunders quote above was written in 1957. In 1827, poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “If a man examine carefully his thoughts he will be surprised to find how much he lives in the future. His well-being is always ahead.” Going back much further, the benefits of mindfulness, meditation, and non-attachment are the central teachings of Buddhism, which dates back to 542 B.C.
Presumably wise (even enlightened) people have been extolling the virtues of living in the moment for centuries. So why isn’t everyone doing it? Because it’s hard. Really, really hard.
The human brain is always busy—trying to solve problems, make sense of the past, or predict the future. Learning to focus on the present moment and stop the internal “noise” is a skill that requires much practice.
Yoga is helping me hone the skills I need to be more mindful and aware in my daily life. I’ve been practicing Hatha yoga regularly for only a few months, but I already notice a positive difference. I am more in tune with my feelings, with my body, and with my environment. I am enjoying these benefits so much, in fact, that I’ve decided to become a yoga instructor. My 200-hour teacher training certification course starts later this month.
So today, on my daily walk with Romeo, I tried an experiment. Rather than let my mind wander as I usually do, worrying about all the things I “need” to do before the day’s end, I opted instead to work on being present in the moment, enjoying my relationship with my dog and appreciating my surroundings. Here are some of the highlights.
We haven’t had any real rain since May. I was glad to see I’m not the only one who’s lawn looks like this.
The only thing thriving in this hot, dry weather are the weeds. Check out this giant thistle!
Let’s get real about what happens on dog walks.
I almost never see trash lying around the neighborhood, so this came as a surprise. I briefly lost my connection to the present moment and hearkened back to the 70s, when people hardly thought twice about tossing trash out of the car window. What the heck were we thinking?
Hibiscus are one of my favorite flowers. I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed these beauties before today.
There are so many pretty gardens in our neighborhood. This is one of my favorites. It’s full of unexpected objects, like this bit of iron fence.
I’m not sure, but I think this is a mulberry tree. It makes a terrific purple mess all over the sidewalk. I rather enjoy tracking through the mashed up berries. Romeo likes to eat them.
This is a gigantic hosta that’s at my head-level as we walk by. The photo doesn’t do it justice.
I couldn’t get a better shot without walking into this neighbor’s yard, but if you look closely you can see an over-sized coffee cup used as a planter on the table. Also, a statuette of a pig with wings. Someone has a wonderful sense of whimsy.
These are popping up all over town. Little Free Library seeks to promote literacy and a love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide. Have you seen them in your neighborhood?
Romeo nibbles on some green grass, which is a rare find these days.
We had a lovely walk. By consciously trying to keep my mind in the present, I noticed things I hadn’t noticed before, and felt more relaxed than usual. Many days I admit I’m urging the dog to hurry up so I can get back to work.
One thing I wonder, is if stopping to take a picture is removing myself from the moment. I have a friend who never takes pictures on vacation, because he feels like if he’s using his camera, he isn’t experiencing the present. What do you think?