We live in a world full of uncertainties. The fear of what’ll happen tomorrow can easily overtake our entire system. The age of laid-back living and afternoon naps has long since passed. The era of midnight office calls and work from home has taken over. We aren’t strangers to the half-suited-up, half-casual apparel age either. Our personal world mingles and overlaps with the professional world all the time. We’ve heard of personal relationships being formed on LinkedIn. However, professional ones being formed on dating apps aren’t news now, either. With the advent of this lifestyle since the long-gone 2020, our lives have taken a turn towards a truly demanding lifestyle. It does seem as if this’ll be a permanent feature. But we are in 2024, a new year and in all new years, one can start anew.
One of my favourite personal resolutions of the year has been to live in the moment. Easier said than done? Absolutely! But just the inception of this thought was enough to send me on a journey towards being aware of what is happening in the present moment. Not only did it take me away from stressful thoughts but also made me aware of the possibility of living a life free of anxiety. ‘Mindfulness’ is about living moment-by-moment, and in turn being aware of our physical (body-sensations), emotional (feelings) and psychological (thoughts) environment. Those of us who meditate, are conscious of the peace that follows after the simple act of focusing on the breath. There is a peaceful stillness that we can feel upon turning our gaze inwards rather than continuing to focus it outward.
As a result of this resolution, I’ve noticed a rather delightful change in myself. I greet people more joyously, participate in thoughtful conversations and observe what the other is experiencing. I can actually finish books that I’ve started and engage in meaningful talks with strangers. The act of living in the moment allows me to take time and enjoy the subtler pleasures of life. I ask this again, “What are we trying to run towards?” or “What is our goal in this life?”. We might gain a million followers on our social media but what about our mental state? Are we millionaires by our thoughts and way of living as well?
I don’t mean to dive too deep into philosophy; I want to leave that for those marvellous philosophers who share beautiful viewpoints from their respective fields. Their purpose is to enable us to reach the universal goal: to lead a happier life. The consensus is that no amount of outward achievement brings us lasting contentment unless our inner environment is conducive to joy. No amount of Goa trips or hot chocolate sundaes are going to give you permanent happiness because all of them have a shelf life. It’s the inner environment that one creates that can bring us lasting joy.
Celebrated Buddhist monk, peace activist, prolific author, poet and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh has written a series of books on the topic. They are titled simply, ‘How to Sit’, ‘How to Eat’, ‘How to Walk’, ‘How to Love’, and ‘How to Relax’ on different ways in engaging mindfulness in day-to-day life. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has given the world one of my favourite quotes: “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” When you stop while driving to let the stray dog cross the road or pause and observe the birds bathing while taking a walk outside, you direct your attention towards the simpler yet joyous things of life. As a teenager, I often engaged in stargazing, leaving me with some of my favourite memories. On my latest birthday, a friend and I sat quietly and amidst the noise of the Sukhna lake, and just enjoyed the calm expanse of the foggy lake.
There are moments like these that’ll stay in my memory forever, the humble things that could be appreciated by being in the moment. A sweet smile from your teacher in 2nd grade, a hug from your father on a bad day, laughing on the silliest things with your sibling or spending the new year in a quiet gathering next to the bonfire are some memories worth storing in your memory forever. In times like today when the world is over abuzz and everyone is caught up in their gadgets, let us consciously take a pause and collectively move towards the direction of societal mindfulness.