One afternoon a few weeks ago, I was spending time with my 4-month old son. He was sitting on my lap, playing with his current favorite toy, a stuffed moose. As he babbled and gurgled, I found myself thinking, “I wish he could entertain himself so I could get some work done.”
Later that evening, after my son had gone to sleep for the night, I found myself with a few rare hours to spend however I pleased. What did I do? I looked through photos of my son, thinking about all the fun he and I would have together the following day, wishing that it would come sooner.
Too often, I find myself so wrapped up in the past or future, I am unable to live in the present moment. There is always something else I wish I was doing, and I am dissatisfied to simply receive the right now and today.
We are masters of wishing for things, largely because we live in a consumer society. Instead of being content with the present reality, we reminisce about that thing we used to have, or dream about getting that thing that we don’t yet possess. Because of this, we are discontent people. We are discontent in our relationships, in our careers, in our life stages.
Another obstacle to living in the moment is the all-too-common activity of multitasking. We are frequently consumed by the need to be productive, and we allow ourselves to become busied and distracted (case in point: while I was in the process of writing this very post, I was simultaneously checking email, paying a bill over the phone, scanning an Elle magazine article, and browsing Facebook to see whose birthdays were coming up. The true irony is that when I do five things at one time, only a fraction of my attention is given to each activity, and I am not actually doing any of them). This way of life derails us from appreciating the here and now.
Receiving each moment as it comes has been a new discipline in my life. I try to respond to the present with acceptance, joy and contentment. As I watch my son learn how to sit up, take a hot morning shower, chat on the phone with my parents, go for a walk during the last warm days of summer, eat fresh cheese at the farmer’s market, or spend a few quiet moments with my husband, I remember the words of Michel de Montaigne: “Rejoice in the things that are present; all else is beyond thee.”
I am learning to love what I have in the present moment, and that is the true art of living.