Alex Matthews wrote this article a couple years ago, but it is as relevant today as it was then and the content is timeless. We can learn a lot from being present, in the moment, not by sailing through life in a mindless stupor as we conquer our "to do" lists.
I never met my maternal grandfather — he passed away before I was
born. He was a wise, kind man. A devout Christian who also encapsulated,
beautifully, the concept of mindfulness — of living in the
present — with the saying “Today is the best day.”
My mother has often said this to her children. For her, as well as my
sister and me, it has become a sort of mantra, something to aspire to,
to live by.
“Today is the best day,” means appreciating the here and the now and
all the goodness that this contains. It involves acknowledging that we
do not live in the past or the future; we occupy the present, and so we
better darn well make the most of it. Happiness is not a destination you
will reach, but something to be accessed now. We can so easily dwell on
what we don’t have, or what we want but haven’t got yet (or had, but
lost). “Today is the best day,” means letting go of those
preoccupations, turning the focus on what you do have, on your life and
its bounty today.
I’m not making a list of resolutions this year. What I do hope,
though, is that I appreciate, every day — or even most days — that Today is the best day — and that I manage — again, on most days — to do the following:
Make the effort. While some of life is just about
showing up, beautiful things happen — connection, fulfillment, growth
and learning — when you you take responsibility and show initiative.
This applies in all facets of your life — socially, on a sports field,
at the office, at home.
Let go. (Or, as Taylor Swift would say, Shake It Off.)
Experiencing critical thoughts and negative emotions — anger,
frustration — is natural; so is caring about what people think of you.
But holding on to these emotions and perceptions holds you back; they
distract you from your own purpose. Take note, and then let them go.
Live your life; because it belongs to you and nobody else.
Go with the flow. Don’t passively accept the things
in your life, but don’t fight the unchangeable and inevitable either.
Surfing lessons have taught me that getting into a flat panic when
taking a tumble doesn’t do the least bit of good — all the thrashing in
the world won’t get you back above water. Rather, acknowledge your
environment, understand the challenges, and then respond to them. In
other words: float, don’t flail.
Breathe. Something as simple as breathing has the
power to shift your internal emotional landscape and boost your mental
and physical wellbeing. On an Art of Living course, I recently learnt
the Sudarshan Kriya, a daily breathing meditation (with many scientifically proven benefits).
In the few weeks that I’ve been practicing, I’ve found it to be an
incredible tool — reducing anxiety, improving focus and helping to
create a sense of balance. Breathing doesn’t make a shit storm
disappear, but it does help you to step back, and weather it better.
Yoga, with its emphasis on the connection between the breath and
different postures, is another powerful tool to get you to breathe,
bringing bring balance and focus.
Make imperfectly, rather than nothing perfectly. I
sometimes have the near-crippling worry that the words I write just
aren’t good enough. The worry is almost strong enough to make me avoid
writing altogether (a bit problematic, as this is how I earn my living).
I have to constantly remind myself that it’s OK to create things that
aren’t perfect; that it’s better to create something with flaws, than
never attempt something at all. When we create, the sentences that fall
flat teach us as much, if not more, as the ones which sing. We grow by
doing. The more we do, the more we grow. Craft isn’t the end — it’s the
in-between: it’s not a product, but rather a process, and one in which
there should be joy (as Srikumar S. Rao will tell you in this incredibly
inspiring presentation on work, happiness and the present).
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