The Present is a Gift is adapted from my book “Awaken the Happy You”.
“Treat every moment as a gift; that’s why it’s called the present”—Deepak Chopra
Young children experience the world as a wondrous place. They live in a state of awe in which every little thing is a mystery and every moment is fresh and alive. They bubble with joy because they are fully present to the gift that each new moment contains.
So, what happens to this innate sense of joy, wonder and adventure as we get older?
As we grow, our heads slowly become filled with information and knowledge. And as our inner space becomes more and more congested with information, the natural sense of innocence and wonder is gradually crowded out. We begin to live more in our heads and less in the moment.
As our heads become filled with more and more content, two things happen.
- We stop seeing things as they are and see them instead through the complex filters that the conditioned mind superimposes on the world.
- We become disconnected from the miracle of the present moment as we spend more and more time lost in our thinking minds.
A botanist doesn’t perceive a flower with the same sense of awe, wonder and innocence that a child does. Rather than seeing it as it is, the scientist experiences it through the lens of the mind — this or that genus, family, species and so forth. Knowledge stands in the way of direct experience.
In the same way, due to the mind’s complex web of concepts, beliefs, assumptions and pre-conceived ideas, we rarely experience life directly—as it actually is.
We misperceive what’s really there and overlook the miracle that is present in every moment.
Our personal ideas about life prevent us from really knowing life, prevent us from fully living.
The Present is a Gift
Learning to quiet the mind and live more in the present moment is of enormous benefit to our health, happiness and wellbeing.
Choosing to abide in the moment, rather than abiding in our heads, as we normally do, opens up a whole new dimension of life, a whole new world of experience.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of interest in mindfulness meditation. With so many studies confirming its powerful benefits, it is being introduced into more and more mainstream settings — government departments, companies, schools and prisons, to name a few.
Scientific studies reveal a strong correlation between regular meditation practice and happiness.
Caught up in the busy-ness and frantic pace of modern life, we have become disconnected from our own inner light, from our natural sense of joy and wonder, and from the sacredness of life itself.
There is no doubt that the significant increase in stress-related illness and depression in recent times is primarily a spiritual issue.
Rather than being immersed in the here and now, as children are, we live our lives in the not here and the not now, and suffer greatly as a result.
Nurturing the connection with our authentic selves and, in doing so, awakening a deeper appreciation for the miracle of life that surrounds us in every moment, is an essential step towards creating a happier, more fulfilling life. And re-establishing our connection with the present moment is key.
Although I had been practicing and teaching other forms of meditation for many years, a few years back I became curious to learn more about the mindfulness approach. I was particularly attracted to the strong focus on kindness, compassion and self-love. So I signed up for an 8-week course.
On the course, there was one particular exercise, “walking meditation”, that made a lasting impression on me.
As we walked slowly through the lush gardens of the retreat centre, we were invited to be attentive to the present moment — to feel the ground beneath our feet and pay close attention to every little movement and sensation in the body as we mindfully placed one foot after the other.
We were instructed to give our full attention to each of the senses, one at a time. This is what I wrote afterwards:
Being fully attentive to the intricate patterns and colours of the leaves, the spider busy at work on its web, feeling the texture of the grass under the soles of the feet and the gentle breeze on the skin, smelling the soil, the herbs, the fragrant moss, listening to the gentle crackle of twigs underfoot and the rustle of the wind in the trees — transformed what, at first sight, appeared to be a lovely garden, into Narnia, the magical kingdom!
It is both astonishing and humbling to pay attention to the miracle of what’s going on around us and within us in every moment —when we are present enough to notice.
The wondrous transformation of the garden happened through a shift in attention alone. Nothing new or different appeared on the outside. Everything was exactly as before.
We are normally so distracted by the thinking mind that we fail to notice the immense richness that is present all around us.
Being attentive to the fullness of what each moment contains, as children are, naturally instils within us a state of wonder and joy
To finish off, here are some beautiful words on walking meditation from the Buddhist monk and mindfulness teacher, Thich Nhat Hahn:
“Walking in mindfulness brings us peace and joy and makes our life real, enjoying peace in each moment with every step. No need to struggle. Enjoy each step.
When we practice walking meditation, we arrive in each moment.
Our true home is in the present moment. When we enter the present moment deeply, our regrets and sorrows disappear and we discover life with all its wonders.
Breathing in, we say to ourselves, “I have arrived”. Breathing out, we say “I am home.” When we do this we overcome dispersion and dwell peacefully in the present moment, which is the only moment for us to be alive.”
The present is a gift.
The good news is that the wonder, joy and sense of fullness and belonging we all long to get back to is so much closer than you might think. It is your true nature. All it takes to experience it is one moment of being fully present here and now.
Mindfulness is the best tool I know for achieving this. Join me on March 14th to discover the benefits for yourself.