Making each moment count
by Charlotte Watts
The title of this article is a homage to the seminal quote by Ram Dass, formerly Dr Richard Alpert, the Harvard psychology professor who turned his back on Western thinking to become a yogi and spiritual teacher. His book titled ‘Be Here Now’ was his 1971 ‘countercultural bible’ that helped introduce a generation of hippies to Eastern philosophy. Still in print today, it stands as testament to the need for a more present, aware and nurturing mindset in the everyday commercial world.
I had always suffered from an overactive and self-destructive mind and really wanted to be able to ‘let go’ and simply walk down the street with a free mind. Over the years, yoga and its emphasis on breath and stilling the mind has given me the space to stop and find space when I need, recognise when I have gone off-track and be able to connect with the world around me to settle back in the present.
And I am not alone, this global need has shown itself in the success of Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now which has sold over 3 billion copies since the late 1990s. Tolle was listed the most influential spiritual person in the world by the 2011 Watkins Review. This guide to becoming conscious of the ‘now’ has bought this fundamental cornerstone of Eastern philosophy into the Western mainstream.
“As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease.” – Eckhart Tolle
The popularity of the Power of Now shows that this stuff isn’t esoteric, it is a basic truth that if ignored can leave us feeling unable to cope and overwhelmed. But what does living in the present actually mean?
- Connecting with our more primal selves to actually notice what is going on around us rather than rush past
- To connect with our intuition and instinct to feel rather than think about what any given situation requires
- To accept that good things and bad things happen, but we learn, let go and move on
- To look for opportunities to feel joy, ease and peace in our lives and in our relationships with others
I have several key things that work for me to find a bit of peace in all the noise:
- Continually look at the world around you – noticing the little details of trees, buildings, situations helps to bring you out of the constant noise of your head.
- De-clutter both in life and therefore your mind – lots of stuff just serves to keep us distracted and disengaged.
- Find a bit of space daily – we can get into the trap of waiting until holidays or weekends to relax but our bodies and minds need to restore continually. This can be sitting on a bench in the sun, lying in the bath or anything that focuses you to stop and gather in.
- Don’t feel you have to ‘do’ all the time – we can lose the ability to ‘not do’, to move away from the constant stimulation and reactions to the world around us. This can be scary at first but focussing on the breath can help us centre into the silence.
- Look to find the present moment in the most mundane activities – when washing up or doing the ironing, use the opportunity to let your brain rest and find the repetition action meditative.
- Breathe – nothing anchors you to the present like being conscious of your breath. Constant attention to the past or future also steals from your ability to let easy, full oxygenation keep you healthy and calm.