So sang Steve Miller and we all know how true it is. We look forward to peak events and can’t wait for them to happen – whether that’s our next meal, holiday, party, sexual encounter, sleep, or for me just now, England’s matches at the World Cup – then suddenly they’re gone, almost as though they never happened.
Not only does time keep slipping past like this but we often feel that we’ve not been fully awake through the passing hours and days, and we suddenly discover that another week, month, year of our limited allotment has slipped away, almost in a dream.
Time is a flowing river that we can never stop and grasp in our hands however hard we try to hold on, but we can be more fully present in the moment to moment flow of the river. It’s challenging, though, since our monkey minds love distraction and find it desperately hard to dwell in the here and now and not constantly think of the past or the future.
This is really the essence of meditation/mindfulness and mindful movement (qigong, taichi, yoga etc.). We practise fully experiencing the moment, often using either bodily sensations or breath as our anchor (incidentally, there is some evidence that mindfulness can be easier to cultivate when practising slow and deliberate movement than when sitting still and that one of the things that makes the traditional body-mind-breath practices so helpful).
But if calming and stilling the mind and bringing it into the present is challenging in the ‘contrived’ setting of meditation or qigong etc. practice, how much harder it is to carry into the rest of our lives.
The answer (if not putting it into practice) seems simple though. Through our daily activities, we constantly remember/forget/remember again to experience what is happening in the moment. And a wonderful tool to help with this is (constant) awareness of breathing or of the way our body moves, feels and occupies space. This is a powerful tool to cut through our dreaming and distraction and feel the joy and peacefulness of awareness, an experience that is close to gratitude.
As the 4thcentury Chinese book Essentials of Nourishing Life said. “In order to cultivate the arts of nourishing life one must first of all practice meditation. During all everyday activities such as walking, standing, eating, drinking, sleeping, and resting, one must continuously meditate. It makes no difference whether it is night or day. One always preserves one’s essence and breath in their entirety.”