The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams.
—Jean-Pierre de Caussade
What’s your relationship to the present moment? (“What, you mean, like right now?”) Right now! The moment that you’re in.
It’s ok if you missed it. There are more where that came from.
Deep talk from spiritual traditions has drifted across the ages, infiltrated our pop-culture collective consciousness, and somewhere along the way the content seems to have fallen out. Talking about the “present moment” has a waft of something vaguely Buddhist about it, but it seems most of us aren’t sure quite what that something is. It’s clear that “being in the present moment” is supposed to be a good thing to do, but no one ever really explains how one is supposed get in there. (Or how to know whether one has arrived! “Am I there yet? How about now?”)
So we’re left with an aftertaste of preachiness, or the suspicion that, as usual, we’re doing life all wrong.
With all the chaos of daily life, it’s hard to even notice the present moments as they flutter by. But noticing, in itself, could be your key to unlocking the breath-ballooning expanses hidden in each moment.
That noticing could take the form of an interior exercise. Ever notice how many moments you spend in the past or future? You might be lying sleepless, rehashing an embarrassing moment from grade 3; or running through the shopping list for the umpteenth time, while not actually shopping. You might not even have noticed you’re doing it. Good news though: you can be released from these relentless rehearsals. Once you begin the practice of stepping back, noting “future” or “past” each time a list drifts by, you’ll have a shiny key in your hand. Don’t be shy to use it.
Another key is hidden in the in-between space that bridges our interior and exterior worlds: the senses. Attending any one sense can be a portal to expanded space in the present moment. Poet Aisha Sasha John records the sounds around her in a café as part of her writing process. In an interview with CBC books, she said “The practice is to listen and to receive and to record whatever in the moment announces itself to me.” Sensory attentiveness can even expand the moment itself into immortality, by inspiring art.
Of course, tapping into our senses in the present moment can be fruitful even when it’s mundane: sensing deep into our feet, noticing our weight being supported by the ground, can help prevent our conscious minds from fleeing the scene when we’re met with something rage-inducing. Who knew that noticing one’s feet could be a golden key to a better life?
We have so many keys to unlock the worlds within each moment. But what do we do when we get there? I’d like to live there, personally. With practice, we can slowly move in and make ourselves comfortable. But there’s another magical ingredient: intention. It’s one thing to tell oneself to “quit the constant grocery lists”, but without a greater vision or purpose for your consciousness, things are bound to get wandery again. It’s important to recognize that our wanderings have an agenda too: they’re all forms of resistance to whatever the present moment is trying to offer. As you open to the moment, remember to surrender to the goodness that life has to offer.
Check in with yourself a few times a day, and remind yourself of the gifts you bring, your mission in life, the peace and comfort you’re hoping for, the best self you wish to be. Then keep jangling those keys in your pocket, and unlock every door you can find.