“Life is available only in the present moment.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
A few years ago I went in a store, bought a drink, and left. A few minutes later I could not remember where I put the change from buying the drink. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the face of the cashier or any observations about the store. It’s not that I have memory problems; in fact my memory is very strong. So what happened? I realized I had been lost in thought. I was so lost in my own story of everything I needed to do and everywhere I needed to go that I was completely unaware of what I was doing in the moment.
I then started to wonder how many other parts of my life I was missing while lost in my thoughts. Was I really listening to my children, husband and friends? Was I going through the day missing interacting with people, my environment and even opportunities that came my way because I was thinking about my blog, my next meeting or my next meal?
So I did an experiment. I decided to silently recite a mantra all day long while I was moving from place to place so I would not get lost in my thoughts. I also said my mantra before meeting with someone or while engaged in any activity. The mantra I picked that day was “love first.” For me it worked as a constant reminder that my awareness, kindness and actions throughout the day were more important than my thoughts.
At first it was a little awkward. I actually felt “over focused” on everyone I came in contact with and everything I did. And there were also pauses between my words as I saw the color of each person’s eyes. Yet, as I laid my head down to sleep that night, I recalled the waitress at the restaurant who said she was tired because it was Friday, the doorman who told me he was taking care of his sick mother and my daughter who told me she had pasta for lunch. I remembered the breeze on my face as I walked to pick up my daughter from school and how a cup of green tea had tasted. I realized that I had gotten a lot of work done that day, and yet the day was filled with something much more. I had connected with so many people, my environment and I had even been aware of my feelings as I went about my business.
I also felt less burdened by the endless list of everything that I needed to do in the next few days because there was a new awareness of life as it was happening. I realized that there is little peace for me when I am lost in thought because the to-do list always grows and there are always more goals to achieve. Nothing ever feels completely done. Yet the replacement of my random thoughts with an ever-present mantra created a wholeness and completeness that left me satisfied exactly where I was in the moment.
Maybe try a mantra or word of your own that constantly brings you back to where you are and what you are doing. You might find that there is so much more to each moment than there ever was before. The trees have many more beautiful leaves and the sky offers so many glorious moments to pause and admire the awe of it all. We also might find that our sweet children have so much more to say than we’ve been hearing. And yes, ice cream. Eat ice cream while saying your mantra. It will taste like never before!