There are lots of things in life that take great faith. My list of most faith stretching experiences would probably include getting married, having kids, studying in a foreign country, changing jobs, etc. All of these events legitimately require a big level of trust because they tend to involve big life change without much knowledge or certainty of how things will turn out.
Recently though, I’ve discovered something that for me takes more faith than all of that.
Being in the moment
On the surface it sounds really simple. Just be in the moment with whatever you’re doing or experiencing. It’s seems easy…..until you try it.
I first encountered the idea that you could practice being in the moment and strengthen it as a skill when I starting meditating over a year ago. As I started working at it, I was surprised how often my mind would wander. It was literally every few seconds. Most often my thoughts would gravitate towards something in the past that I was frustrated about or something in the future I was worried about.
With time I came to realize that to truly be in the moment I had to let go of those things. I had to trust God and have faith in the fact that he has the past and the future in his hands and let myself just be present with him. I couldn’t worry or ruminate while doing that. I was just being, letting God be with me.
While I believe God is everywhere – in the past, the present and the future, I’m discovering that his presence is extra strong in the here and now. We have to totally rely on him to be present.
There’s a lot of different ways to describe being present but mindfulness is the word that’s gotten lots of attention lately. In fact, if you’ve been online at all in the last couple of years you’ve probably run across the term many times.
According to Psychologytoday.com mindfulness “is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”
The benefits of mindfulness are well documented scientifically. They include everything from reduced stress, pain relief, improved mood, attention span and focus, enhanced creativity, improved physical health, etc.
I’ve definitely experienced many of those benefits but practicing mindfulness has helped me in other ways as well.
- I’ve started to appreciate what is around me more. There is so much beauty everywhere but we have to stop and notice it.
- I’ve gotten more in touch with God. As I’ve quieted my mind I’ve been able to experience his presence more and hear from him better.
- I tend catch myself more often when I default to mindless activities that have not been helpful in the past.
- When my mind starts to going into its spin cycle of worry, I’m often able to pull it out of that by focusing on something in the present.
So how do you get started? There’s lots of ways to begin but I found some great suggestions in a Psych Central blog post. I’ll summarize a few below but I’d encourage you to check out the full article here.
- Practice it during routine activities. Pay more attention as you’re brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating breakfast or walking to work. Zero in on the sight, sound, smell, taste and feel of these activities.
- Practice it while you wait. In our fast-paced lives, waiting is a big source of frustration – whether you’re waiting in line or stuck in traffic. But while it might seem like a nuisance, waiting is actually an opportunity for mindfulness.
- Learn to meditate. The best way to cultivate mindfulness in everyday life is to formally train in meditation…..it is like learning a new language. Meditation helps us tap into mindfulness. I mentioned this in a past post but I use the Headspace app and really like it. It provides really simple guided sessions that focus on different areas of life and make meditation accessible and easy to learn for anyone.
Like anything else that we practice regularly, being in the moment gets easier and the benefits continue to grow the more we do it. My experience is relatively short and limited but I’ve learned so much in that time that I’m inspired to keep at it, stretching my faith and leaning into these experiences, hopeful for what I’ll learn next.