Sunday, August 24, 2014

40 Pieces of Advice Challenge - Day 13

What if I told you that, every day, I open my wallet, find a $20 bill, rip it into shreds and set it on fire?

I'm pretty sure that you would see it as a very strange practice. Maybe you would think that I was wasting something that could be of use to me or to someone else.  

And I would agree with you.  

Well, the good news is, I don't actually do that. But, most of us do burn something every single day that is worth far more than twenty dollars. And it is something we can never get more of. 


What do you do with your time? Do you think about the past and how you should have done things differently? Do you worry about things you have no control over? Perhaps you think of everything that can go wrong in the future and end up paralyzing yourself in the present?

Do you continually find fault with the words and actions of others? Do you spend your time rehashing conversations in your mind, or have imaginary arguments with people who have done you wrong?

You're not alone. It seems to be the human condition to be wrapped up in our thoughts, constantly living in our past of our future. Many spiritual practices over thousands of years have been focused on helping us live in the present and give up our need to control things beyond our sphere of influence.  Our wisest teachers, throughout our history and our present time, have shown us, in words and by example, that life is best lived by focusing on the positive, moment by moment.

Does focusing on the positive mean that we walk with our heads in the clouds, never seeing the real needs and problems in our world? Of course not. It means finding the best course of action to take in order to serve those needs or heal those problems. It means being so mentally, emotionally and spiritually present in every moment, that we are able to see how to participate fully in this thing we call life. 

Ok, it's very easy to say, but how do you actually stay present in every moment? That is the twenty (million) dollar question. And I'm not so foolish to think that I hold the answers. What I do know is that the times I feel most alive, as though I'm seeing and hearing and feeling and smelling and tasting with amazing clarity, are the times that I am involved in following my passions. When I don't feel the passing of time because I'm exploring nature with my children, or having a heart to heart talk with a dear friend, or when I dress as a clown and make strangers smile - there are so many things. 

In these moments, it doesn't even occur to me to think about the past or contemplate the future. I just AM, and that is the most joyous state to be in. But, what if I am not in one of those moments and my mind starts down that path of worry and regret? Here are 5 things that help bring me focus:

1. Clear up any unfinished business I have with someone. Maybe it's a conversation that needs to happen, or a plan of action to be put in place, or maybe even just writing a letter that will never be sent - but getting out of my head and into the real world will automatically center me in the present moment.

2. Take action right now that will help bring about a desired outcome in the future. Am I feeling resentful because my busy day did not allow me any time to rest and refresh myself? I will take a few minutes to write down the feelings of frustration and make a plan to give myself at least a few minutes of recreation the very next day.

3. I believe in the power of laughter, so I will find something that makes me laugh. A few minutes of comedy really put things in perspective.

4. Commune with nature! I am so very fortunate to live in a place where all I have to do is step outside and I am greeted with the glory of nature. Just a few minutes of walking among trees or feeling the cool breeze play through my hair and I am refreshed and energized.

5. This one may sound like a tired old rehash, but it really works. I count my blessings. That is not to say that I compare myself to the "less fortunate", I don't. I just consciously call to mind all the good and wonderful things in my life.

So, how about you? What techniques do you use to use to keep you living in the present moment? What can you do to use the irreplaceable treasure of time to uplift your life and the lives of others?

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