I was at a funeral service today and for one reason or the other I was very restless, I couldn’t wait for the service to end, I felt like getting up midway and leaving the hall for a little while as I felt a bit suffocated by the atmosphere. It was the funeral of a young man and the service was understandably sober but unlike me, I wasn’t present at all, the singing, sermon and ceremonies passed over my head until the pastor told a story and though I didn’t get the beginning of the story he made a statement that captured what I had been thinking about for a while.
A week earlier, I was on the third mainland bridge driving to the Island, I like driving so long as certain conditions are present- a working car, a good air conditioning system, no traffic, a smooth surface road and music. All conditions were present that morning, the music was supplied by Classic FM 97:3 and they played in quick succession, songs I loved and had not heard in a while. I danced as I drove belting out the lyrics and giggling to myself as they brought back long lost memories and in that moment I knew without a doubt that I was happy. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than the way I felt, not the past nor the future, not about bills I had to pay or worries I had, all that was important was what I was feeling at that particular time and I reveled in it. Apparently, it takes very little to make me happy.
I remember telling a friend about the way I felt that day especially, in the light of hearing of the death of the man whose funeral I attended today and that of at least 3 other people all young and in their prime the youngest being 17years and both of us concluded that the most important thing especially as we were growing older was to live everyday as if it were one’s last as no one was guaranteed a tomorrow.
Now, the story the pastor told was that of a man who had died and had attempted to take certain possessions of his on his journey but found out that he couldn’t take them because they were not his to take. He couldn’t take his body because it belonged to the earth, he couldn’t take his will, memory, skills and talents because they belonged to his past and his spirit belonged to God. In despair he asked what in-fact he owed since everything he thought was his belonged to someone else and the reply he got was “your moments. All you owned were your moments”. Your memories belonged to the past, your aspirations to the future all you really had were your moments”.
We live in a world where we are mainly ruled by our past and future and never by our present. We are either trying to escape our past or return to it if it was better than our present and we always tend to look forward to the future which we believe or pray will be better than our past. Whatever the situation we find ourselves in, we tend to discount and disdain the present. I remember as a child looking at the adults in my life wistfully and wishing for adulthood to come in a hurry or as a single disdaining my freedom and yearning for the time I will be married. I really didn’t appreciate the blessings of childhood or singleness until I was an adult and married. To my shock, I found adulthood to be a scam and not the Eldorado I thought it to be. Now I am looking forward to not paying school fees and enjoying my money but unlike when I was a child, I am finding the time to enjoying my journey and life even as I perform my day to day responsibilities and plan for my future.
Living in the moment is being mindful of ourselves, our journeys, our relationships and experiences. It is savoring the present irrespective of the burdens we carry or the uncertainty of the future. It is submerging ourselves in the now and allowing it to sweep over us. It is being present in everything we do or that comes our way. It is living, really living and it is not a complicated or sophisticated living. As humans, especially Nigerians we tend to be focused and driven in our quest to live a better life and I don’t blame anyone of us. We basically are our own government. We provide everything from electricity to security to water etc and all this costs money, so we tend to have one job and several hustles in a bid to give ourselves the simple joys of life but in planning for our future we often forget to take time out for the present, to smell the roses, to appreciate what we have. We look at citizens of the developed world and wonder why they seem to be laidback, why they are not as ambitious as we are, why they spend money and time to curate experiences and we shake our heads in wonder because we are used to living for the future.
Please understand me, there is nothing wrong with ambition but if we are not careful our desire to achieve will lead to us denying ourselves the pleasures our hard work has earned us. We will end up striving to reach the top of the mountain only to get there and find out that there are other higher summits to climb.
So how do we practice mindfulness or living in the moment.
- Being attentive- being attentive is key to living in the moment. We should give attention to what is happening both outside and inside of us. Take time to look at nature, our environment and surroundings, be attentive to our emotions and what we are feeling. Be attentive in the presence of others by giving them our time and attention and being attentive in our work by focusing on the tasks before us.
- Being conscious of our thoughts- As much as possible, we must keep our thoughts positive and present-focused. We must learn how to train our minds by shifting it from the past and present to positive thoughts about the here and now. Focus our minds on our present situation, and take time each day to think about only what’s going on right there in the moment.
- Not being judgmental or close minded- growing up, we imbibe beliefs and acquire mindsets due to our upbringing and environment and so we have the tendency to close our minds to new ideas, change and other perspectives to life. The truth is that our ways even though right may not be the only right way, different doesn’t always mean bad, things are not always black and white there are acceptable greys or exceptions to every rule and we need to acknowledge that we don’t know it all.
- Acceptance – in this context, acceptance means accepting things as they are and not being content with things we do not like. Accepting the facts of life brings a peace that makes us enjoy and be grateful for what we have.
- Being aware that change is constant- life is in cycles and it will do us good to enjoy whatever cycles we find ourselves in because it will certainly not stay the same. E.g children grow rapidly and enjoying every stage of their lives is vital as they will not go through the same stages twice.
Life is fickle, fragile and unpredictable the recent deaths I have heard of has led credence to that fact no matter how much we project into the future, when it comes, it becomes our present. There is no sadder thing than planning and working hard for a future we may not even recognize or enjoy when it comes because we are focused on a new future.
So today take time out to enjoy the journey on your way to your destination. Today is all we are promised.