Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Appreciation, Acceptance, Awareness

Like you, I'm in my head a lot.  I think about my life.  I think about the past, the present, the future. 

With my past, I usually think about what I liked, what was going well, the elements that seem better than my current reality.  Perhaps I'm looking at it with rose colored glasses, a sense of nostalgia; perhaps I only choose to remember the good things. 

With the future, I hope.  I hope for things to be better than they are now, the things I don't like about my life  Perhaps this is a choice about my future I also make: to look at it with optimism.  When I don't, I know I see my future as more of the same, the stuff of life I don't like right now.  That pessimistic view of my future sinks me into a pit of disappointment, despair, and depression. I know that's not healthy for me so I resist. I hope. 

And the present?  I know from my study and practice of Zen that there is nothing but the present moment. The future may never arrive; the past has left.  What I have to work with is now, this moment, this hour, this day.  So I remind myself to accept, to appreciate, to be aware.  I remind myself to let go.  To be grateful for what I do have. I remind myself to return to optimism rather than pessimism. 

When I remember, and I need to remember far more often, I take a deep breath; I become aware of that breath.  I move myself out of my mind and into my body.  Breath awareness can do this in any situation without anyone knowing.  Meditation also, obviously.  This is the purpose of meditation: to calm our minds, to take us out of our minds momentarily, and into our bodies, into the present moment, no judgment.  Exercise also works.  A contrast to the stillness of meditation, the constant movement of our bodies can create a quiet mind, a mind concentrating on the exercise at hand.  Yoga is the midpoint between meditation and exercise.  One,two, or all three of these activities can help us calm our minds and return to present moment with a renewed sense of acceptance, appreciation, and awareness of our current reality.

Being in the present moment doesn't mean we can't plan for our future. In fact, we must.  It doesn't mean we won't think about our past.  It is our history; it informs us.  Being in the present moment simply means that this is the most tangible, the most real moment of them all because it is here and now, it is what we are experiencing.  It is not a memory; it is not a hope. It is reality.  
We need to calm our minds to be still and to be aware of the fact that we are here, we are alive, this is it, this is all we have.  Viewing it with anxiety, angst, or anger makes life as it is (past, present, and future) more difficult.  Viewing it with appreciation, acceptance, and awareness makes life as it is (past, present, and future) easier.  Choose the latter and that makes a huge difference.

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