How to truly ‘live in the moment’

by Kate Pippos on Sunday 11 February 2024

4 min read

We hear it time and time again – “be present”. But what does that actually mean, and amongst the bombardment of modern life – how? Our culture pushes for more. More status, more success, more stuff, more wealth, more experiences. Like it or not, we’re insidiously measured by it. Those who have reached high heights are celebrated more and inevitably attain more status, more success, more stuff, and more wealth.

It can be challenging not to compare, not to feel as though what you have achieved – somehow isn’t quite enough. And this is where, according to Eastern philosophy, we can get waylaid. We fail to see the forest for the trees. Instead, we’re peering down the pathway of another night of doom scrolling, buying one more thing, of trying to figure out which investment will yield the best return. But our capitalistic culture isn’t all doom and gloom (unless that’s what you choose it to be). And adult life is ultimately a game of choose your own adventure.

Life can also be pure

Take a moment to remember back to the last time you paid nothing and felt warmly content. A sunrise peeking through the clouds. The brush of your beloved’s hair across your cheek. The smile of your child as they open their eyes in the morning and see you. The sound of leaves rustling through trees. Those still moments where life seemingly pauses – are the richest moments in life. They’re imbued with a privilege that doesn’t pay dividends yet that is so priceless. So priceless in fact, that you will never get them back.

This is the commodity of presence

These moments are fleeting, a thing Buddhism refers to as anicca, or, impermanence. By the time you’ve been flooded with the associative good chemicals and hormones, both the moment and the feels are gone. The sun is up and blaring. Your beloved rolls over. Your child realises that their pyjamas are itchy and breaks into a tantrum. A bird in the tree poops on your shirt. The sweetness of life is equally matched by the bitterness. And your mind has wondered off into your last holiday, or maybe your next holiday, or that barking dog down the street.

The Vijnana Bhairava Tantra (not what you think!) text proposes that to live fully and completely, we recognise all of these experiences as an expression of presence. Life giving and foundational to the fabric of our existence is the ability to be present. Suggestions range from meditative practices to complete acceptance and the name Vijnana Bhairava Tantra literally translates as “the terror and joy of realising oneness with the soul”. This isn’t a masterclass in just focussing on what is good – but a very human attempt at being with what is.

So, how to be present?

Well, it ain’t always easy. So if you enjoy a challenge, buckle up for the ride of your life. You’ll need patience, diligence, discipline, and an openness to receiving. Make it a daily habit to listen to someone else, just once, without formulating a response in your mind. Try yoga, it will tone your body and your mind by sharpening the edges of your concentration. Meditate like your life depends on it, because you don’t know, but maybe it actually does. Maybe all the moments in which you train yourself to be present will be distilled into a single moment that requires every inch of you to drink it in.  

One of my favourite Buddhist authors, and the author of When life falls apart, Pema Chödrön, is quoted as saying “If we pause and breathe in and out, then we can have the experience of timeless presence, of the inexpressible wisdom and goodness of our own minds. We can look at the world with fresh eyes and hear things with fresh ears.” The prize of presence? Never being bored. Always finding newness and a touch of gold in what you feel, think, and do. And the more you do it – the more you get.

This my friends, is superannuation for the soul.  

About the author

Making time for your physical and mental wellbeing is important. It will lead you towards a greater outlook on life and all the little things that make it so big. Take a moment to pause in Sound Bath, or hype up on the gym floor. Whichever you choose, it's a moment for you, with you.

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