Jessica is busy. She has a chaotic job, often requiring hours of overtime. She rushes frantically from meeting to meeting, always just barely pulling it off. Somehow, she juggles that with family, outings with friends, daily workouts, and (most recently) …dating.
When friends ask how it’s going with her new guy, she says it’s good. Things are progressing, and she looks forward to where she hopes they’re headed. But what about where things are right now?
This is a relationship, not a project with a deadline. Is Jessica enjoying the present, or just pushing for what the relationship could become? Like a lot of us, Jessica struggles to live in the moment.
When you rush toward the future or dwell on the past, you miss what’s going on in the present.
Psychologists call this concept “mindfulness.” I first learned the benefits of mindfulness from a seminar by a Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who defines it as “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally—as if your life depended on it.”
I’d like to point out two things about that.
First, being “fully in the moment” sounds like a simple concept, but it’s actually tough to pull off. It’s hard because we have all kinds of distractions pulling our mind away from the here and now.
Even when we’re doing something important, we’re usually also thinking about the other things we need to get done. It takes real effort to narrow your focus to what’s happening now and nothing else.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. You should, and you should be patient with yourself, too. You’ll slip up a lot at first.
The second thing I want to point out is the payoff.
Imagine a casual evening with the man in your life. Nothing special. Maybe just pizza and a movie.
Now, imagine that evening without any distractions.
You’re not thinking about the tense conversation you had two days ago. You’re not trying to gauge what the future holds, or if/when the two of you will settle down together. You’re only thinking about that night, savoring a simple evening in his company.
Sounds kind of magical, doesn’t it?
That’s what mindfulness is all about. If you can slow down enough to really be in the moment, your time with him will be far more meaningful. And if there’s potential for a deeper long-term relationship, you’re more likely to get there by slowing down and fully experiencing what the two of you share right now.
Try practicing mindfulness this week, both in your relationship and in other areas of your life. And remember, being mindful doesn’t mean you never reflect on the past or plan for the future. Rather, it means you live in the present moment and only project your mind elsewhere when using that ability as a tool that you set aside when finished.
Surprisingly, almost everyone experiences greater contentment and happiness when they try to keep their focus in the present moment. That’s despite the fact that almost everyone has problems in their life. As Walt Whitman said, “Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”
You deserve happiness and joy. Don’t wait for it. Find it in the present moment.