The Moment You’ve Been Waiting For

Our lives are spent building up to more important moments, later, the moments when we’ll be happy.

But when those moments come, we’re not happier. In fact, we’re already looking ahead to the next big moments: an upcoming trip, a big project being completed, meeting up with friends, getting that great thing you ordered online, finding your next favorite book, meal, drink, experience.

What if that wonderful moment we’ve been waiting for is this one, right now?

What if this very moment is the most important moment of our lives?

What if we stopped working for something later, and instead started paying full attention to right now?

What if we stopped thinking happiness is coming soon, and tried to see what was in front of us, and find happiness in that?

What if this were the moment we’ve been waiting for all along?

How to Appreciate This Moment We’ve Been Waiting For

If this is the most important moment of your life, some ways you could appreciate it:

  • Stop right now and notice what is right in front of you. Find a way to be grateful for this particular moment.
  • If you are looking forward to something in the future (or anticipating anything in the future), turn instead to what’s right here, and see this as your big moment, filled with wonder and the brilliance of life.
  • If you are rushing (like I often am), instead give yourself the gift of full attention to right now.
  • If you have to hurry for some reason … you can move quickly and still appreciate this moment, appreciate your motion, appreciate how your body feels in the middle of this.
  • If your life seems “blah” right now, compared to how you would like it to be … take this as a beautiful opportunity to examine your ideals about life (why does it need to be exciting or entertaining?), to practice letting them go, and to see the incredible richness of the life around you, if you pay close attention and find curiosity inside you. This is a gorgeous opportunity, to be appreciated.
  • If you are going through difficulty or pain … see this as a good opportunity to turn towards your pain or difficult feelings (anger, depression, frustration) … to be present with it, to stay with it, to be curious about it, to be kind towards it … maybe this moment isn’t filled with joy, but it’s still the most important moment of your life, because in this moment, you find the mindfulness and courage to open your heart to your actual experience, to see it as a path for learning, growth, and open-heartedness, to use it as a touching point into the goodness that’s inside of you.
  • If this moment is filled with fear, uncertainty, immense change, or anxiety … see this as a powerfully important moment to turn towards these feelings, to see that you’re reacting to the great groundlessness of your life at the moment, and to start to learn to embrace this groundlessness, not as something to run from or push away or be reactive towards … but to get comfortable with. If you can find peace in the middle of groundlessness, you open up to the ever-changing nature of life, and can be at peace no matter what life throws at you.
  • If there is someone with you right now, you can turn towards them and open up to who they are right now, and see them as a manifestation of life’s incredible beauty. How can you appreciate this human being, and see that your time with them is limited and precious?
  • No matter what you’re doing, you can turn inward and see the innate goodness in your heart. This is always there, always accessible to us, and something not to be taken for granted. Also appreciate your body, your eyes that can see flowers and the sky, your ears that can hear laughter and music, your feet that can walk the Earth, your breath.

These are just a few ideas — let yourself explore a thousand other ways to appreciate this most important of moments, in the most loving way you can — with your full attention.

The Moment You’ve Been Waiting For was first published on Zen Habits on 3/9/17.

The Magic of Seeing Everything as Sacred

When we wake up in the morning, many of us automatically go on our phones or computers and start reading, checking messages, responding to things, and moving through our online world on autopilot.

We go through our day like this as well, managing as best we can, dealing with stress and being overwhelmed, moving through the physical world forgetting to be mindful.

For the most part, everything is normal. We’re managing. On good days, things go pretty well. On bad days, frustration and stress get to us.

But what if we could shift everything in a magical way?

What would happen if we changed the way we saw every single thing around us, including other people, including ourselves, including every little thing we see?

Try this: view every single thing you see as sacred.

See what happens.

Now, I’ll admit that “sacred” is a loaded word for many people who are not religious. It literally means “connected with God (or the gods),” and so if you’re not religious, it might seem a bit dumb. But I don’t believe in God, and still find value in the idea that things might be sacred. Hear me out.

“Sacred” is simply elevating something to the level of divine. That might be God, if you believe in God, but it could be the divinity in the universe, the miracle of existence and every moment. If you think of how crazy it is that we exist, and think of how wonderful and miraculous this universe is … I would argue that it’s divine, no matter what you believe in.

Look outside: the trees and flowers and birds you can see are filled with divinity. They are absolutely sacred. So is the wind, the stars, the sunlight falling upon the faces of strangers, the ability to see colors and to have a conversation and connection with a fellow human being.

Think of all that changes:

  • If you start to see something as sacred, it no longer becomes “ho hum,” no longer becomes something you’re taking for granted. You fully appreciate the beauty of that sacred object or being.
  • If you see another person as sacred, then you treat them with respect and even love, you look deep into the loveliness of their soul and broken heart, you are grateful for your connection to them.
  • If you see your possessions as sacred, you don’t toss them in the trash or put them any old place — you put it away with care.
  • If you see your work as sacred, you no longer feel it’s a burden, but a gift. You do it out of devotion, with love, instead of just trying to get through it.
  • If you see yourself as sacred, all of a sudden you start to see the goodness within yourself. You treat yourself better, putting healthy food inside of yourself instead of junk.
  • If you see the world around you as sacred, you move through it with awe. With a sense of wanting to applaud the universe for its magical creation. With a sense of purpose, being the audience of this miracle, wanting to fully appreciate it.

Look at everything around you with awe and appreciation. Treat it with respect and care. Put things away with reverence. Treat others as if you are connecting with the divine. And treat yourself with as a manifestation of the universe that has somehow been given the gift of realizing its own sacredness.

That is true magic, and it is always available.

The Magic of Seeing Everything as Sacred was first published on Zen Habits on 6/27/18.

Mental Resiliency: Letting Go of the Guilt of Not Getting Things Done

It happens to all of us: we don’t get done what we hoped to get done, then we feel stressed or guilty about it.

It’s time to let that go, because it’s not helping us.

We can build resiliency around this, with a little mental training. And it will help us in magical ways.

Think about whether you’ve done any of these things:

  • Set out to do a certain habit (exercise, eating, meditation, writing) and then didn’t do it as planned. You feel guilty, disappointed in yourself, or just stressed.
  • Had a list of things you need to get done, and then didn’t get most of them done. This just added to your stress.
  • Planned to work on a project, or do some writing … and then procrastinated. Again, you felt guilty, disappointed or stressed.
  • Hoped to change your patterns, like eating or how you talk to others or how you practice mindfulness. Then everything goes to crap and you feel disappointed.

There are thousands of variations on these, but the main theme is that things didn’t go as you’d hoped, and that causes disappointment, guilt, stress.

Here’s the thing: there’s no problem with the failure to meet our expectations. The real problem problem is the expectations. And the stress that it causes when we don’t meet the expectations.

In all the examples above, we have this ideal in our heads about how things should be, how we want to be. There’s nothing wrong with that — we all do it, all the time — but the problem comes when we hold too tightly to the ideals/expectations. It causes difficulties: we feel let down, we feel anxiety, we feel anger or resentment at ourselves, we become unhappy.

This process of expectations and then not meeting them and then less happiness … it happens over and over, throughout the day. We are constantly doing this to ourselves.

This leads to stress, unhappiness, feeling overwhelmed, feeling like we can’t change, a lack of trust in ourselves. This is the real damage. It hurts everything we want to do, making it more likely that we just give up, because we don’t trust ourselves.

This is the problem.

The answer is to hold less tightly to our ideals. Become aware of our expectations (of ourselves, but also of others), and cling to them less. Toss them out, if possible, and just see what happens.

And love what actually happens. Love yourself as you are, not as you wish you’d be. Sure, endeavor to do good, out of love for yourself and others … but when you don’t meet those expectations, toss them out and love who you are, what you’ve actually done. Love reality.

Here’s the prescription, if you want one:

  1. Set an intention to love yourself by exercising, eating better, meditating, being kind to others, doing your work in the world. Set the intention out of love, then do the best you can.
  2. Whatever you do, notice your expectations, toss them into the ocean. Love what you actually do, love the moment and yourself no matter what. Let go of the useless guilt and stress and self-criticism.
  3. See what held you back from meeting your intention. Make an intentional change in your environment so that it won’t keep holding you back. Set another intention, out of love, but don’t cling to it. Repeat, over and over.

By letting go of these expectations, by tossing them into the ocean, we can let go of our difficulties and actually be at peace. Actually find contentment. Actually love ourselves. And this leads to a happiness with the world and ourselves that is incredible and that fills the heart up.

Mental Resiliency: Letting Go of the Guilt of Not Getting Things Done was first published on Zen Habits on 4/18/18.