To be in the moment or not to be in the moment..


Like most people who practice mindfulness, I live more of my life in the present moment. By that I mean less time spent ruminating in my head about stuff and more time actually experiencing my moments.

This is not possible all of the time and I still go into thinking about the past or worrying about the future but I catch myself doing this much quicker than I used to and can quickly bring myself back to the present and what is actually going on rather than the story in my head.

Since venturing down the mindfulness path I have started noticing others around me who appear unhappy and who don’t seem to be living in the present. 

On a recent holiday this was very evident.

A holiday takes planning. There is the decision to be made of where to go, how much do we have to spend on a holiday? Once the destination has been decided and booked, most people will then look forward to the holiday. They will possibly shop for new clothes, plan what to pack, decide who will feed the cat, chat to their friends (and hairdresser) about their upcoming holiday.

Despite my new found ‘living in the moment’ chit chat, I still catch myself feeling a little stressed in the run up to a trip way. There always seems to be so many last minute jobs to do and I can feel the panic begin to rise when I realise my to do list is getting longer.

Through my mindfulness practice I am able to reverse this feeling by briefly focusing on my breath and notice what is going on in my body rather than my mind.

This quick ‘check in’ with myself brings me back to the present moment and recently when this happened, I just looked at the list, dealt with what really needed doing before I went away and accepted that the rest was not very important and could wait until I came home or perhaps it didn’t need doing in the first place!

Before the plane even took off for our exciting trip to South America the human negative bias of my fellow passengers started to kick in. One passenger was complaining about there being no space for his bag in the overhead compartments. I overheard him say the amount this trip had cost him you’d have thought they would have had enough space for everyone’s bags.

All the cabin crew were so welcoming and friendly but some passengers couldn’t take pleasure from this and enjoy the beginning of their exciting trip; they were too busy thinking about all the negative aspects of being in a plane.

The trip I was taking involved five days on an organised land based trip in Brazil and then on to Argentina to pick up a cruise bound for three more South American countries. The other passengers presumably knew this and I also assume most people when travelling on vacation check the average temperature of the countries to be visited. I presumed wrong!

During the seventeen day trip I lost count of how many Brits complained about the weather being too hot.

“This heat is ridiculous”, “it’s too hot for me”, “I can’t stand this bloody heat”,  “I’m so exhausted from this heat”

Not only were the complaints about the weather but also about the travel company who were taking care of us.

“This ****ing company are so rubbish they can’t organise a piss up in a brewery”

And about their travel companions. I overheard a lady yelling after her husband.. “why do you always bloody well do this to me” (no idea what his crime was!)

One lady was fed up of unpacking and repacking because we were staying in two different hotels over five days.

“I can’t wait to get to the ship and just stay in one place with all my things unpacked.”

It was a shame for her that she was unable to enjoy those wonderful moments we were having visiting beautiful places because she was so busy in her head thinking about the future, i.e. where she would to be in a few days.

Once on the ship the complainants didn’t stop, regularly I would hear people moaning about various aspects of their holiday.

Even my own travel companion likes to complain! He hates queues. Well I have never met anyone that’s goes out of their way to find a queue to stand in for pleasure!!

Over a lifetime there is going to be a lot of queuing so why not be happy during the queuing.

We all have a choice!

We can notice we are in the queue and accept it and be happy or we can be unhappy and moan and groan about it, complain about how long we are having to wait and make the other people around us unhappy too.

We could of course leave the queue and not do what it is at the end of the queue but if we choose to stay in the queue, why not appreciate this moment in our life and be thankful that we are alive and healthy and have the ability to stand in a queue.

There are many people in the world that don’t have the luxury of going to places that they may have to stand in a queue. There are people whose legs do not work well enough for them so they will never be able to stand in a queue.

All the complainers on my trip had one thing in common. They wanted the experience they were complaining about to be different. They wanted their unpleasant experience to be pleasant. But the people complaining about the heat may have also complained if it had been too cold.

The woman complaining about her husband may have found fault with him over something else. Some people get stuck in a habitual way of being.

All that excitement before the holiday, the discussions, the shopping, the packing needed to be done but if too long is spent thinking about the future, we can miss so much of our life as it is happening.

As my recent observations on holiday showed me, many people who no doubt were looking forward to their holiday were unable to enjoy it because they were too busy complaining about wanting it to be different!

Practicing mindfulness helps change our attitude towards a situation. It helps us see pleasant and unpleasant experiences as part of our life and view these moments with a different perspective.

After all, our lives are simply made up of lots of moments and we have a choice how we react to them all. 

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