Tag Archives: being in the present moment

The Constant Round of Arrivals and Departures

One thing that seems to define this stage of life is the constant round of arrivals and departures.

Just over the last couple of days I’ve said au revoir to an offspring setting out from home for the next stage of his yoing adult life. Bid a final farewell,  at the funeral of a friend who seemed securely there on the periphery of my life, yet is suddenly gone. Begun knitting for a baby expected in my extended family.

People come and they go all the time, but somehow I didn’t notice or feel the ebb and flow so acutely before.

I’ve become much more aware of the seasons these days, both in the trees and in life.

Let the Feelings In

How to cope with the flood of emotions that arise at each greeting and each farewell? It’s always a joy when someone close comes back for a while, and a wrench when they leave. But this is life.

There is no escaping. Might as well set up home on Waterloo station.

I think the only thing to do is in embrace it. Show the love when they’re here. Have those deep conversations. Stop being afraid of saying the things that matter.

And do my best to let go of fear, that old existential gremlin who sits on my shoulder muttering :Maybe they won’t come back. Maybe this is the last time you’ll see them (insert evil cackle). 

It’s obvious that living in the present moment as much as possible is the only way to manage this. Watching the seasons up close is a good way in.

I’m going down the garden right now to have a closer look at those berries that are starting to flush red, the big brown spiders that have shown up early this year, the leaves that are just starting to tinge yellow. They are trying to tell me something.

Stand there and breathe. Say hi. Say bye. Love it all, just the way it damn well is. 

New Ways To Keep A Diary At 60+

Since teenagerdom I’ve been accumulating an enormous pile of books filled with agonisings, musings and outpourings about my life.

They inhabit the carrier bags of doom, stuffed in the back of a dark cupboard, cowering as the great de-clutter moves ever nearer.

All that scribbling has served me well over the years. The solitary pleasure of sitting up in bed writing frantically, getting it all out of my head and on to the page, has helped stop the merry-go-round of obsessive thoughts and even prompted the occasional decision.

What’s It For?

This year though, the cerise felt-covered book has lost its allure. What is the purpose of all this navel-gazing? Is there a better way to spend my time than writing it all down?

Lately I’ve realised that one reason I write is to put the brakes on time, to preserve experiences by writing them down, and keep them so my life won’t disappear behind me like a vapour trail. It doesn’t really work. Like old photo albums, diaries of the past can only represent a one-dimensional portrait of a moment long-gone.

I might be a lot better off putting my focus on the present moment.

Who Am I Writing For?

Sometimes I do want to look back, and sometimes it’s valuable. Other times it’s sad, like picking at an old wound. And often I end up berating myself, ‘…you really didn’t have a clue in those days, did you…’. Not kind, nor helpful.

I do sometimes imagine Older Me, arriving at a time when nothing new and noteworthy is happening in her life, so she actually wants to curl up with a pile of old diaries and leaf through – ‘Hmm, so I made a beef stew when Jenny and Sean came round in 1978 – no idea who they were…’

Maybe I’m writing them for my children.  Ah yes, the heritage. But a lot of it is such cringeworthy stuff, I’d far rather they burned the lot unopened. They might enjoy the childhood memories, such gems as my daughter’s comment, aged 2, hearing noises off in the supermarket loo saying loudly, ‘I think someone just done a big crap in there…’ – (where did she learn such vulgar language?).

But no. The diaries are crammed with the stuff of a life, large and small, and of interest only to me. And a lot of it not even that interesting.

Different Ways to Keep a Diary

Despite this, I still feel an urge to keep a lighter record, so  I’ve been trying a few things instead of the screed.

  • Draw rather than write. I like stick people and speech balloons.
  • Note one thing heard during the day that was funny, smart, or touching.
  • Sum the day up in one word
  • Pick a random word from a book and use it to spark a quick poem – write for 3 minutes

These are fun, quick and say a lot without the need for three pages of handwriting. If you’re an inveterate diarist, give them a go yourself.

Do you keep a diary? What is its underlying purpose – or does it even need one? Have you tried other ways of recording events in your life? Please share your thoughts below.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

How to Spend More Time in the Present Moment at 60+

You’d expect it to be easy to spend time in the present moment. After all, it’s right here, so why not make up your mind to ‘be’ in it?

Today, as I walked along, I remembered that I wanted to practice being more be present.

‘Gorgeous magnolia,’ I remarked to myself,

‘…and,’ added my mind almost instantly, ‘…how awful it would be if you were knocked off your bike and killed, that would be the last magnolia you ever saw. Imagine how upset people would be at your funeral…’

And we were off, within a micro second, caught up catastrophic thinking and, rather than being here and now with the magnolia, propelled vividly into some future time that is never likely to happen, particularly as I don’t ride a bike….

The mind finds it virtually impossible to stay in the present moment for more than a few fleeting seconds. Its relentless desire is to launch into a re-run of some tale from the past, or else to amuse itself by itself by cooking up horror stories of tragedies, upsets and disappointments that might unfold in the future – but almost certainly won’t.

Why the mind has evolved in this way heaven knows, but it can no more stop thinking than the lungs can stop breathing, and it is constantly casting around for something to chew on.

Learn to Be Present More Easily

Cultivating an awareness of the mind’s antics is a great skill to have, and one that you can learn. Without that awareness, you can be oblivious to your entire experience if you’re walking around lost in thought. There are times when you just wouldn’t know that mind and body are connected.

A nice little trick to bring that awareness back is to have a run-through of the senses, noticing:

5 things you can see
4 things you can hear
3 things you can feel
2 things you can smell
1 thing you can taste

Try it now. You may be amazed to discover that you have hands! And feet! And they’re doing something which you can feel. What’s more you’ve got eyes that are filled with images, and ears that are attuned to the most subtle of sounds.

Find The Thing That Takes You Out of Yourself

But even if you set out with the best intentions to be here now, it’s an effort to train the mind to play along. So what else can we do, to spend more time experiencing the joy of the present moment?

The 80-year-old artist David Hockney shares his wisdom in a little video I saw recently. He says:

‘When you’re painting, it’s Now. I like to live in the Now. That’s all there is – Now – isn’t there?’

Hockney’s nailed it. When we’re totally absorbed we don’t notice time passing, we’re lost in the present moment.

What’s the activity that takes you out of yourself? Is it painting, like Hockers? For me it’s writing for pleasure (not for duty), and making music.

For you –  it might be gardening, baking, sewing, running? Please leave a comment, and share the activity that roots you in the present moment.