quote by Bil Keane
In June 2016 my parents came from Bulgaria and visited me and my husband in The Netherlands for a week. One day we went to Wassenaarseslag, one of the beaches near The Hague. This is when I took this photo of the beautiful sunset. Besides the beauty of the sunset, it reminds me of the great time we had together and the feeling of being grateful of having enjoyed the day as well as their company.
If you are not truly present, you would hardly appreciate the little things that truly matter in a day like this. Life has become busier than ever. Many of us rush through life without realizing how it is slipping through our fingers while we are playing busy. A few years ago a wise and very dear friend of mine shared with me the following insight:
“Life is a marathon, not a sprint”
Thank you, David Savage.
I might have heard it before, but hearing it at that moment certainly had a special impact on me. After I went home, I wrote it down immediately and I managed to turn my life around it in the last couple of years. From someone who was constantly pushing the gas pedal to arrive in the future as fast as possible, I managed to learn how to lean back, look around and enjoy the ride.
Yesterday is history.
When we wake up each morning, a new day has begun. The day before is gone forever and the only way to bring it to life is through our memories.
Many of us spend a lot of time trying to change the past instead of focusing on what is ahead of us or even right in front of us. For better or worse, we are not able to change it, no matter what we do or would have liked to do.
Whether you are feeling miserable in your personal or professional life, there is one thing that is clear: it is all in the past. So why not forget about:
- the job you couldn’t land;
- the promotion you didn’t get;
- the project you were not involved in;
- the girl/guy who didn’t share your feelings;
- the fact that your marriage didn’t work out;
- or whatever else you feel the need to let go of?
I know it’s easier said than done but I believe that leaving our past behind frees up the energy to face the present and the future.
Let the past go. Let yesterday be not more than history.
Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.
quote by Lyndon B. Johnson
Tomorrow is a mystery.
On the other extreme there are those of us who live in the future. We make plans, we have ambitions and dreams and we work so hard to achieve them that we are missing the precious opportunity of being here and now.
Have you ever experienced the disappointment of achieving something but not feeling relieved as you have already set the next goal? Nowadays there is so much to learn and to do that you are never good enough or knowledgeable enough as technology and science keep on developing and improving.
I have spent a great part of my life planning the future. During my studies, I was so focused on finding my dream job and starting my career as quickly and as successfully as possible. During those years, I had many part-time jobs, I visited numerous career fairs and I put a tremendous amount of time and effort in learning Dutch. But if you ask me whether I remember the simple beauties of each day, I would have to sadly admit: No. What I remember is a constant state of running and chasing the next goal.
Ambition and goals are definitely important in life but from someone who has tasted the bitterness of not being fully satisfied with any achievement, my advice to you is:
Don’t let your ambition and goals take over your present.
Today is a gift.
Do you remember what the weather was like when you woke up?
Who was the first person you greeted when you left your home?
Many of us live on an autopilot. We do things automatically without even noticing what is going on around us. The wise people often say that life is shorter than you think. Before you know it the years have passed and you are old and grey. As we don’t know how many more days we will have, why wait until it is too late? Why not enjoy the gift of every single day?
I am not saying that I have mastered it and I manage to live totally in the present every single day but here is my secret to being more alert and present in the moment:
Take a few minutes a day to sit or lay down and meditate. Switch off the TV, put your phone on silent mode and make sure there are no distractions around you. Focus on your breath. Notice how you feel. Are you warm, cold, exhausted, energized, happy, sad, worried, grateful? Let your thoughts pass by as the clouds in the sky but do not dive into them. Acknowledge your emotions. Just be. Be alert in this moment and celebrate your existence.
I started with short meditations of 5 minutes in the morning before work or in the evening before I go to bed. With time, I managed to bring it up to 20, 30 or even more minutes per meditation. Unfortunately, I still don’t do it as much as I would like to (twice a day, every single day), but, hey, even a few times a week is already more than nothing!
#2 Be alert and notice nature
Whether it is a beautiful sunrise, sunset, rainstorm, flying bird or running dog, notice what is going on around you. Pay attention to the change of seasons. Notice how the leaves of the trees become yellow, then fall down, enjoy the snow, do not miss the first blossoming trees, recognize when everything around you becomes green and alive. Be present where you are, not just with your body but also with your soul.
While driving to work I pay attention to what the weather is like and what is different that day. I do not feel sad when the summer goes by as I have enjoyed most of the sunny days. I do not regret when the winter is over as I have enjoyed the coziness of my home and have gathered enough energy for the summer months. Once you make it a habit, it will be difficult not to pay attention to your surroundings.
#3 Be grateful for what you have
I bet that whatever your situation is, there are a few things you can definitely be grateful for. The fact that you are up and alive, able to see, hear, walk and breathe on your own are enough reasons, for example.
If you are reading this article then you are certainly alive, you can at least read, so you are more educated than a big part of the world’s population, you most probably have a roof over your head, food on your plate or at least you can enjoy the luxury of having some free time as you are apparently not that busy, poor or desperate to not even have the opportunity to be online. Quite some reasons to be grateful for, don’t you think?
I have realized that I won’t find happiness while I am chasing ghosts. How can we even expect to get fulfillment from diving too deep into the past or looking too far ahead into the future?
Every single moment you have a choice:
to be present here and now or be somewhere in the past or the future.
Again, these were just a few examples of what helps me stay present in the moment and enjoy the beauty of each day. You might use them as inspiration or not. Most important is to find out:
- What is your way to be present and enjoy each day?
- What habits can you adopt, so that you can be even more present and alert each moment?
- What are you going to start with?
If you already do it, please share your secret, so others might benefit from it, too!
I would like to leave you with the following quote by Steve Maraboli but to make it complete I have slightly modified it by adding the underlined words:
The beautiful journey of today can only begin
when we learn to let go of yesterday and forget about tomorrow!