When I was a young boy, my friends and I used to go to Saturday matinees at the local movie theater. The movies were mostly “B” movies, but for 25 cents and a nickel for popcorn it made for a great morning full of fun. On one sunny Saturday morning, we went to see a monster movie called “Them.” It was a 50’s movie about giant ants mutated by atomic testing ravaging the countryside and the drainage systems of Los Angeles. Luckily, humankind survived.
Out of all the movies I saw that one scared me so badly that it crept into my life. I remember walking my dog through a vacant lot in our neighborhood and hearing a sound that I had never heard before – a sound that sounded exactly like the sound that those giant ants had made in the movie. It freaked me out so badly that I ran all the way back home. And later that night, I laid in bed imagining giant ants chewing their way into my bedroom. I panicked at every sound I heard. And though I’m much better these days, I still remember that movie!
While the movie example is pretty obvious, there are many others that are not. For instance, we may have failed at a relationship and are now afraid that there is something wrong with us. Or, our life is going through change and we are afraid of what will happen next.
If we look closely at our fears, we will find that they are based on an experience of the past that we have carried with us into the moment and projected into the future. What we are present to shapes our experience of the moment. This is why being present to the moment is so powerful. When we are fully present to the moment, we become fully engaged in what is happening right now. When we are enjoying an ice cream cone, we don’t worry about what has happened or what might happen. We are simply enjoying the experience of the moment. And if we are enjoying a walk with a friend, we can enjoy the walk without worrying about past relationships or about what may happen to your friendship in the future.
Staying in the present moment allows every moment to be a new experience. It gives us the ability to engage change with excitement full of new possibilities instead of mourning the loss of something familiar. And instead of becoming bored with our life, it allows us to experience each moment as new. Instead of feeling like a victim of circumstance, it allows us to engage each moment with a creative opportunity.
Staying in the moment requires that we ask ourselves one question, “Is this happening now?” If it isn’t, then just return to what happening in the moment. If it is, then just take the steps appropriate for the moment – if it’s funny, laugh – if it’s sad, cry. Just keep it simple.
When we learn to love the moment, the moment will love us back. It’s what love does.