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A catharsis about living in the present moment caught me off guard last week. On this run-of-the-mill morning, I was walking down the sidewalk on my way to a meeting. For the third time in a matter of minutes, I checked my phone to get yet another reassurance that I’d reach my destination on time. The clock showed good news, but still I recalculated the number of blocks left on my journey so I could be absolutely sure.
Or not. Only a minute later, I was reaching for my phone again. Why, when I’d gone through these motions three times already, was I still fixated on an arrival that was safely in hand?
Shoving my phone back into my pocket, I shifted my attention to the sidewalk. Instead of worrying about my destination, I watched my feet moving through space and time towards it – healthy, unobstructed, and with no reason to rush. My present moment was showing me success; not only were my current needs being met, but I was doing everything that I needed to do to meet the needs of my immediate future, too.
A sudden serenity washed over me: the catharsis had arrived.
I’d been fixated on my destination because I’d erroneously included arriving at my meeting as part of my present moment. No wonder I was anxious! As long as I was using that lens, my present was stuck in a limbo of lack until I reached my destination.
Fear is a common response when we’re faced with lack; but how often are we afraid of perceived lack, not actual lack? How we view our present is a choice, one that we can alter from moment to moment. When we adjust the “size” of our lens, we allow ourselves the perspective required to see that more of our needs are being met than we initially thought.
In his book You Are Here, Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “The only moment in which you can be truly alive is the present moment. The present moment is the destination, the point to arrive at. Every time you breathe in and take a step, you arrive.” Following the Buddhist example, one way we can choose to adjust our lens is by zooming in tightly as the Zen Master describes – this step, this breath, this embrace. I tend to do this in a moment of great joy or great stress – perceiving the present minute by minute for savoring or for security.
But I think great joy and serenity can also be found by adjusting our lens to different sizes. The key is to remember that we regularly can – and should – make these adjustments as they best serve our well-being. Zooming in or out, we can define our present as:
- A moment, experienced by the minute
- An activity, experienced by the hour
- A cycle, experienced by the day
- Or a season, experienced in a period of exploration, growth, or change.
The lenses listed above each bring their own affirmations and insights to the same event. As we move through our day, there’s no right or wrong to which ones we choose to “wear”, beyond matching them to our needs. So, next time you feel like you’re stuck in the limbo of lack, give your lens a tweak and look at your present through a different perspective. With luck, you’ll find it improves the view.
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