What does it mean to be mindful? It is simply this:
To be at peace with the present moment as it actually arrives,
even though it isn’t what you expected or wanted.
You have been mindfully present before. You can tell by your happiest memories. Think of a time that is very clear in your mind – a date, a kiss, a birth, an experience in a far-off land. All of you was in the now – mind, body, heart and soul. You were not distracted by thoughts unrelated to that moment – to-do lists, what other people were thinking, whether you should be somewhere else.
Living in the present is a happy, confident, safe place. Very rarely is the present moment itself ‘bad’. It is only our judgments of the present moment that are good or bad. We decide. We are in control. Our discomfort is merely our illusion that happiness is “out there.”
Every day, we are faced with such moments. We are not getting what we expected or wanted – a traffic jam, the price of gas, the flu, an angry look, yellow teeth, the phone call not returned, the job lost, the child misbehaving, our lover’s rejection and many more. When these moments upset us, they are our self-evidence that outside events control how we feel about ourselves, not us.
We compare the present moment with what we expected to happen. Most of us hold on tightly to our expectations and focus our energy on changing what we’re getting. This is especially true in a love relationship. We enter marriage with high hopes and dreams. Inevitably, every one of them will be tested and even crushed. To be comfortable with disappointment means changing what we are expecting.
The secret to being mindful is to focus on being present. The goal of being present isn’t just to have different expectations. The goal is to have fewer expectations. When this is so, we are quick to trust ourselves in the moment, slow to jump to conclusions, and we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
We learn that it is not about us. Her anger doesn’t mean you are a bad husband. His working late doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. Your child’s stumbling doesn’t mean you are an ineffective parent. Their feelings and actions belong to them. What they do no longer defines you, your identity or your sense of self-worth.
When we focus on living in the present, we find within ourselves the means to feel good about who we are, what we have done and where we are going. This is because in the present moment, we know that we are fine. Wehave always been fine. Our present unhappiness is caused by thoughts and feelings anchored in an unchangeable past or an unknown future. We must shed our past. We must trust our future. Then we will be at peace in the present.
Every action we take happens at the same moment in time – the present moment. It is a logical fact that we can only act in the present moment. No one can act yesterday or tomorrow. For that reason, slowing down enough to notice the thoughts and feelings behind our actions is the secret to uncovering who we are. Only then can we say, “I know me and I trust me.”
When we focus on the present moment, we begin to see that we are often driven by a desire to win the approval of others, or to avoid their wrath. We let our concern with their approval sway us from being true to our self. Fear and control push us into decisions and actions that you later regret because they weren’t right for us. Love and compassion get lost because we feel hurt. We become distant and mistrustful towards those whom we believe pressured us into choices we never really wanted.
In reality, we willingly participated. We ignored our own quiet inner voice saying to us at the time, “Don’t do this!” But we did it anyway. We were too afraid to stand up for ourselves. Now we have to accept our own role in what happened. Only then will we free our self to make new choices in this new present moment that will let us be true to the person we really are inside.
You will know you are living in the present when you feel a sense of love gushing from within yourself. You will never completely get this feeling without seeking a relationship with the source of love – God himself. In the Bible, God describes himself in present moment terms, telling Moses “I Am Who I Am.” (Exodus 3:14) When you are present, you are one with God spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Orgasm between husband and wife is the closest definition of this present moment experience. Perhaps this is why our sexuality is addressed so explicitly in the Bible.
The most striking part of being present is that you forget about yourself. You let go of being self-conscious. You are one in spirit with the universe. You feel especially safe when you are most vulnerable. That is why marriage is the most challenging place to be present. Your lover is the most dangerous person in the world, who can hurt you so deeply. And vice versa.
For this reason, the key to being mindful is to build up a high tolerance to what you once perceived as suffering, especially if you feel it is your mate who is the cause of your suffering! Then you will respond wisely to life’s events without feeling bad about yourself.
When we are present-moment focused, there is nothing for us to alter, fix, change or improve. Paradoxically, when we accept the present moment as it is, real changes begin to happen, often quickly!
You are loveable. You may not believe that right now. But you will if you persist in your spiritual journey. Love is the purpose of living, and living mindfully in the present is the visible expression of your love for others and for self. I pray that you will feel this deeply. May God fill your soul and lead you to your destiny, whatever that may be.