It’s so easy to talk about “living in the moment,” but not quite as easy to do. The other day, however, I forced myself to try, and it was such a rewarding experiment, I want to pass it on to you.
I was with my husband, my sister and two of my friends, in a fab house in the hills of L.A. As much as I love my own home, my backyard is covered in crabgrass, so lying on a lounge chair by a pool with a cold drink at my feet and nowhere special I needed to be makes for a good day.
Yet as happy as I was in the moment, I kept losing myself to thoughts that pulled me away from it: I wonder if that email came through? What should we get for dinner? Ooh, and I have to remember to add that to my To Do list. Sure, my body was there, but my thoughts weren’t. And when I snapped to, I wondered: How much of the good stuff do we lose like this because our minds are somewhere else, because they’ve moved on to future plans, to rushing around,to texting, to tweeting? This moment was too good, and I was determined to “live in the moment” the way we all say we should. So, I went sense by sense through what I was feeling from the base of my toes to the top of my head. I ask this of you, too: Put down the camera, turn off the phone and take a picture with your mind.
Trust me, I’m not one to put down my iPhone easily; I’m addicted to the Trivial Pursuit App and I love me a good Twitterific visit. But I promise you: You will feel better sitting with silence for a few minutes and taking your life in. Here’s how:
Ask, “What do I feel?” Work your way up or down your body so you get it all. That day, for instance, I felt my heels on the soft cushion. My back touching a pillow. My eyes and chest warmed by the sun. I also felt a perfectly soft breeze. And a bit of a scratch on my left thigh, which I attended to.
Ask, “What do I hear?” Close your eyes if it helps to focus. I heard birds that day. A dog barking. The pool filter. My friend laughing from inside the kitchen.
Ask, “What do I smell?” This one’s such an underrated sense, but is so closely tied to emotion and memory. Breathe deeply through your nose and see what you get. Me, I mostly smelled my suntan lotion. (You can make me wear sunscreen, but it still has to smell like coconuts frying on the beach!)
Ask, “What do I taste?” I tasted a mimosa. And some nacho chips stuck in my teeth. This could be improved upon.
Ask, “What do I see?” Take a shot with your mind of what’s ahead of you: the colors, the movement of things. I saw a blue pool, green hedges, my wet towel balled up on the ground that I wished I’d laid out to dry (dang it). Then look around you. What’s behind you that you hadn’t seen? Who’s beside you who you could be appreciating?
I did this exercise a few years ago with my sister’s friends in the South of France, at a dinner on the sand when no one had a camera to capture the moment. Instead, we took turns talking about what we saw, heard, felt. And even now, the moonlight on the water and the lapping of those waves is more ingrained in my mind than the cute dog I snapped on my iPhone yesterday.
We need to give ourselves the gifts of capturing these moments. Yes, Facebook updates and Twitpics (and, ahem, blogging) is all fun, and so is planning all the great stuff you’re inspired to do as soon as you finish reading this! But what about being present in this moment of life? Not through a lens, not through a filter, not as a stepping stone to tomorrow. Look at what your life is giving you today—this hour—to be happy about and grateful for. How can we really know what we want tomorrow if we don’t know how we feel about today? Let’s give ourselves that gift more often than we do. The next time you find the present fleeting and life sort of passing you by, tune into your senses and take in the moment. You just may realize you love your life more than you knew you did.