As this year is ending, I’m reflecting on the experiences of 2019, both the positive and negative ones. I recently told my sister that the well-known saying “living in the present moment” always did sound quite cheesy to me, nothing more. One lesson learned in 2019, probably the most important one, is this one: we shall in fact try to enjoy the present moment. It’s easy to say, more difficult to put in practice.
I thought I was living in the present moment, trying to make the most of it, feeling content with what I have and taking each day as it comes. I recently came to realize I wasn’t.
2019 has been a year of self-care. I’ve put the focus on myself, it was very much needed: taking a slow pace, going inwards, taking the time for me to figure things out. 2019 has also been a year of solitude: I’ve embraced it, I’ve accepted that I needed it in order to grow and distance myself from my old patterns. I went on my first solo trip, refused to take part in many social events I would usually attend. I draw the line: I wanted to be alone.
Halfway through the year I realized I was maybe closing myself too much. That’s the thing with solitude, with being independent, it shouldn’t mean not inviting others into your life. Isolation can be necessary, yet it’s not necessarily better. By October I figured the walls I had built around myself as a person were very high. It was a good protection, but maybe too much. I figured I was closing my heart and in fact myself to new opportunities. I had refused countless social interactions, but also intimacy with other people. A change occurred and surprisingly enough, I fell in love. That’s not really the point of this article, nor the fact that I got heartbroken. I see this experience as a lesson but mostly as a blessing: I welcome this reminder that my heart works and that I am able to feel.
I bring this up because it helped me realize the importance of living in the present moment. My last relationship was easy at first, very much uplifting. It was good times, easy interactions, a deep connection and happy moments. Until it wasn’t anymore. It became all about hopes, fears, projections. What does it mean, how is it going to be in the future, what if it doesn’t work? It ruined everything. As I see each and every experience as a lesson especially the hardest ones, I figured, isn’t it this the biggest lesson of all? At least I see it as another reminder to live my life in a more mindful way.
Here’s the thing: we are constantly running. We run in our daily lives, to catch a bus, to be on time for work, interviews, parties. We run and we are always looking for the next thing to plan, to do. We are hurrying in the search of happiness too. We view happiness as an ultimate goal, as something we will reach, achieve, by any possible means. If I work hard enough, I’ll have more money, I’ll be more happy. We are looking for happiness in the future, worrying about it constantly. When we aren’t, we’re worrying about the past, letting old things bring us down. We wish we could relive the past, sometimes change it. In all this mess, and all the negativity it brings (overthinking, stressing …) we tend to forget the most important of all: living in the present. Being grateful for what we already have.
I thought, well…this must be what it’s all about. All the cheesy quotes, the idiotic sayings I overlooked. There must be some truth behind it after all. As I deep-dive into the concept of mindfulness (the “psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment”), it all makes sense to me. We shall indeed focus on the present, on what we have, and seek happiness in it. Being more mindful is a key element for happiness. Being happy now, not in the future. Being more mindful also significantly reduce both rumination and unnecessary worry. Who wouldn’t want that?
Another saying pops into my head as I’m writing these lines: “Happiness is a journey, not the destination”. It is very true. There is no way to “find” happiness, nothing in the world can bring it to you on a silver plate. The amount of time, all the means, all the things, all the efforts, all the money in the world will not bring you happiness. Happiness can’t be found, it is already within you. If you are not happy today, chances are you won’t be happy tomorrow either. Simply because there is not even a guarantee that you will be alive by tomorrow. This sounds pretty harsh, but it’s a fact. We should stop running after happiness, and find it in the present moment. Enjoy things as they are, and let them be. Simple to say right? How to put these thoughts into practice?
A good way to do so is firstly to take the time to enjoy things. We can start by slowing down, using mindful practices such as meditation, watching our breath, to help us refocus on the here and now. Then, of course there is yoga and using asanas to refocus. It’s the practice that speaks best to me, but it could be a different one for you. It’s up to you to find a way to practice mindfulness. It’s not easy, but it’s not supposed to be. One thing is sure though, it won’t be harder than living a life on endless dream-chasing and overthinking.