Fully Alive Skill #3: Contact the Moment
Tuesday August 24, 2010
I’m reading the book The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, MD. The thing I like about Dr. Harris’ ideas on how to move us out of suffering into living is his emphasis on contact with the present moment.
Recently I had to spend a lot of time away from someone very dear to me. When I felt the heart pang of missing them, and noticed my thinking starting to spin into webs of story-making about separateness and loneliness, I remembered Dr. Harris’ words about staying in the present moment. Dr. Harris describes contact with the present moment as dropping anchor in an emotional storm.
Rather than being caught on the wild winds of thinking, or buffeting tides of heart pain, I decided I’d try dropping anchor into the experiences of my senses in the present moment. I “dropped anchor” into noticing my breath at first. I was surprised that such a simple gesture seemed to slow everything down and give me some compassion for myself and others, while still feeling a heart pang. I then entered the present moment by going walking with other people I loved, in the cool shade of a forest trail. That (wow!) made me aware I was still deeply connected to people I love. As a last experiment, I let my hands be my thoughts as I focused on cooking a deliciously rich sauce for a dinner. The steam from salted boiling water, the creamy aromas of garlic and cheese, the changing textures of fresh pasta struck me as miniature works of art that I’d never quite appreciated before, even with hundreds of meals behind me.
This kind of contact with the present moment is also called mindfulness. We let our Mind be Full of the moments that are present here and now. I have also heard another teacher describe this solitude and appreciation of the senses in the present moment as ‘feeding directly from the universe’.
You know what? It works. Contact with the present moment was a kind way to come alive through separateness , turning it into solitude; contact with the present moment was a kind way to come alive through loneliness, turning it into an opportunity to be present with my self and those around me, experiencing everything with fresh senses from moment to moment.
Are you suffering? Mindfulness is not a panacaea, but it is a kinder, gentler way to be alive than to suffer through endless webs of story. Contact the moment. You might be surprised by what you discover here and now.