A challenge to live life fully present!
How often do we focus our attention and energy on everything that is negative in our lives? We worry and compare ourselves to others who seem to have it all figured out. We long to feel good about our lives, to be fulfilled and find peace, but most often, we come up short. For me, I have become the expert on the “shoulds” in my life, reminding myself in every moment what I should or should not be doing on my internal, endless to do list. Instead of enjoying what should be the happy moments in my day, I focus on disappointment that things did not go the way I had hoped. Why do we choose worry so often? Are we afraid that if we give up our internal standards or worries about the future that we will somehow succumb to our greatest fears and lose any motivation to grow or move forward? Do we fear losing who we hope to become if we accept who we are or who others are in the moment? Even accepting this moment, that might feel broken and overwhelming?
What I have begun to realize is that it is actually in the acceptance; acceptance of myself, acceptance of others for who they are now, not where I hope they will be and acceptance of the present moment, that I find a sense of contentment, that sense of peace that I so desperately long for. It is when I am fully present in the moment that my eyes begin to turn to what is good, instead of what I fear or what I wish I had or did not have. It is in acceptance that I can move forward and somehow the hard things become less and less consuming.
As a person in relationship with Christ, there is even a greater call to live fully present. Scripture asks us to set our focus and attention, not just on the present moment, but on what God is doing and saying in our moments. Jesus talks about this in Matthew 6:25-34 (MSG), “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” If we are focused on our worry or our fear, we cannot at the same time give the present moment and God our entire attention or fully trust and rely on him to meet our needs. He wants to speak to us and bring peace to troubled hearts and situations, but are we listening?
In counseling, this practice is called mindfulness, which means becoming aware of your thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and actions in the present moment, without judging or criticizing yourself or your experience. There is a lot of great research that says this is a really beneficial practice. In fact, it’s been shown to be effective in reducing the re-occurrence of depressive episodes, symptoms of anxiety, chronic pain, binge eating, as well as increasing relaxation, and skills to cope with difficult situations. Want to try it? Stop and sit for a moment, take a few deep breaths and just begin to notice. Listen to the sound of what is going on around you or your breath going in and out slowly through your nose. Notice what it feels like in your body, are your muscles tense or relaxed? What emotions are you experiencing? What thoughts are going through your mind even as you read this? Have you already started criticizing yourself? Try to observe, but not react to or judge your experience. At first, it may feel strange and difficult, but with practice you will be hooked. I know I have been.
My challenge to you is to seize this moment, live and love in today like it was a gift. Tomorrow will come with enough troubles, let us choose to focus on now. To bring our minds to what this moment has that we can accept and be thankful for. No longer beating ourselves up, but thanking God for the present moment and the grace for a new day. Thanking ourselves for caring, for loving, and for trying. Let us choose to focus on what we ARE doing and what we DO have, being fully present in it and choosing to consume our mind with gratefulness, with thankfulness. Then I believe we can experience the joy and peace that comes as a gift, and be thankful all the more. Let us find beauty amidst the pain. Peace in the storm. Rest in the moment. And joy for this journey of life. Stop. Rest. Take time to accept YOU today. God already does. So how can you make time for these practices in your daily routine?