Power of Present Moment Awareness

Written by Amanda Whittal.

A husband and wife are sitting at home in front of the television one evening. She looks up from her nutrition book, casually commenting on how terrible grocery store food is, and just how astounding it is that millions of people consume these products without a second thought. He nods his agreement.

present moment

Well, it's a good thing we're aware he responds, in a rather robotic tone as he absentmindedly flips the channel.

Aware. The above example is a typical demonstration of a word that we throw around loosely, yet a skill that few of us actually cultivate. In its most shallow sense, 'awareness' refers to consciously having knowledge about something; I am aware that mass-produced food is not particularly good for me, I am aware that who I am today is determined largely in part by my childhood, etc.

Indeed, this is an important facet of the word's meaning. Equally, if not more significant, however, is the implication that many of us lack in day-to-day living: conscious attention to the present moment.

This deceivingly basic factor in living a fulfilling existence is simple, but certainly not easy. It is a crucial culprit of the chronic dissatisfaction that so many people feel. We often go through the motions of our day with attentiveness that is partial to none, coming home at the end of the day to sit passively in front of the television and let life pass by as we watch in a state of disconnected numbness.

This way of living is not necessarily an evil that needs to be abolished. In our chaotic, information-based society, we must constantly plan ahead, review events that have already occurred, and conceptually create our life. There is no question that these skills are valuable for survival, but they are infiltrating every aspect of our lives, to a point where we are spending more time living in a mentally fabricated world, rather than the real one. From a yogic and holistic perspective, it is something that has become excessive and should ideally be brought back into balance.

Sure, if we are facing challenges, it lights a spark of hope within us to dream of a brighter future, or if we have had a hard day at work, sometimes the television can provide a much-needed reprieve. However, we seem to be forgetting that in addition to removing us from the pains of whatever is happening here and now, this attitude also removes us from the magnificence of it. We become then, observers of life, rather than participants in it...and we wonder why we don't feel fully alive.

Have you ever meditated? Been absorbed by the sensations and emotions evoked by a particular song? Felt an all-consuming contentment while gazing at a sunset? Been completely captivated by an interpersonal interaction? During these times, every level of our being is engaged, creating some sense of wholeness and fulfillment.

This experience of life cannot be enjoyed unless our attention resides in the present moment. If we are ruminating on past events, anticipating or placing expectations on future ones, or removing ourselves from any involvement at all, we will inevitably fail to see the richness of the world in front of our eyes.

As mentioned, this is no easy task. From the moment we are born, the events of our life shape our behavioural patterns, and painful events are likely to leave us with a deeply ingrained belief that the present moment is not the best place to be.

Some means of changing such patterns that once served us, but no longer do, include meditation, yoga, sports, spending time in nature...or simply being 'aware'. Just knowing that these tendencies exist makes it easier to catch ourselves when they occur, and slowly adjust them over time. While doing this forces us to face life's challenges more directly, it also opens us up to fully embrace the wonders, exhilaration, joy and beauty this world has to offer. When we recognize that to experience life's splendor, we must be willing to accept its difficulties - take the good with the bad, so to speak - we can enjoy fully taking part in this mysterious dance of nature.

The mountains truly are only as high as the valleys are low... and the peaks of the mountains are well worth the journey.

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