Our lives unfold in the present moment, however, our minds naturally tend to ruminate about the past, anticipate the future, or daydream about the other lives we could be leading. These are completely normal patterns of thinking and useful in certain contexts – learning from mistakes, troubleshooting solutions, setting goals, planning vacations, etc – but when we over-indulge in these mindstates, we lose contact with the present moment and become less attuned to the experience of our lives.
We may feel disconnected and bored. Stifled and unmotivated. Lost and confused. We may be caught in patterns of reactivity as if we are drifting along on autopilot. Or overwhelmed by daily challenges and viewing life as one big obstacle course to race through.
Paying attention to the present moment with compassion, openness, and curiosity offers us a different opportunity. We can become connoisseurs of our own experience – discovering the richness of the moment, connecting with our thoughts and feelings, fostering authentic relationships, improving our decision-making, and appreciating the journey of life.
Become a connoisseur of your experience. This may feel like a vague or abstract goal, but we could boil it down to one simple idea: remember to notice. We don’t have to cultivate a formal meditation practice. We just have to occasionally pause… and remember to notice what is happening.
Bringing awareness to what we are thinking and feeling allows us to interrupt patterns of behavior, self-regulate, and respond wisely to life’s demands. For example, as I sit here and try to compose the next sentence, I feel the urge to pick up my phone, to step outside for a moment of sunshine, to order another pastry… anything to distract myself from the discomfort of not knowing what to say. If I pause and remember to notice, it’s clear that I am feeling stressed and thinking that I cannot do this.
My palms are clammy, my forehead is hot, and my shoulders are tense. My mind is telling me to step away, to stop writing, that none of this makes sense, and that I will embarrass myself if anyone reads this. Remembering to notice allows me to sit with this experience. I can smile at my own suffering. I can say, “Okay, I am noticing some stress, and my mind and body are trying to help me avoid some discomfort, but that isn’t necessary right now.” I can thank them for their efforts to care for me, take a moment to ground myself with a few deep breaths, and reconnect with the task in front of me.
Bringing awareness to the moment can allow us to appreciate our experience. In my previous example, I could have paused and noticed that I was feeling physically drained and mentally depleted. I could have sat with that experience, listened to what I needed, and chosen to step away from my work for a restorative break. While on break, instead of spending that time getting lost in worry, fretting over whether or not I’d finish this post today, I could pause and notice what the breeze feels like across my face or take in the picturesque blue sky. Shifting into this type of awareness opens us up to the everyday joys we may be oblivious to and gives us a more complete view of our lives.
Bringing awareness to our experience is a lifelong practice. The present moment is always available to us and we always have the opportunity to connect with it.
Pause. Remember to notice. Become a connoisseur of your experience.
Ben Lamm APC