Gratitude is an essential part of being present. When you go deeply into the present, gratitude arises spontaneously. —Eckhart Tolle
We can be sure of this: our moments are passing. This moment greets us as wholly alive now, then it goes, and we have no idea how many more moments are ahead of us. This singular truth shapes all of our lives and levels the playing field for everyone.
You choose how to engage with the moments you have — this is your opportunity for creation. Time is your medium. You are the artist. How you choose to spend your time says more about you than just about anything. It defines each of us. Our choices become who we are, the life we have, and, ultimately, the life that we lived — our legacy. But we can easily feel more like victims of our time than artists. In this day and age, our moments seem to pass more quickly with everything moving at an accelerated pace. Living gratefully reminds us that there may be no way to fully catch up, but we can always show up more fully.
We live in a culture where our attention is a sought-after commodity and the feeling of insatiability fuels our economic engines. It can be hard to feel that this moment and our individual life are enough. We can gravitate toward a fixation on to-do lists, goals, aspirations, entertainment, consumption of various kinds, and anything to fill and “busy” the moment at hand. When our “now” is disconcerting, we perseverate about the past and worry about the future. A simple spaciousness of presence can be disarming in its quiet grace and invitations. But learning to embrace the expanse of the present moment is the only true way to live a conscious life.
Meeting the moment with presence is the gateway to perspective and possibility. Simply being available to all of “what is so” in any given moment is what opens our eyes and hearts to life.
It is a sacred act to pause. And it has become a radical act to stop, or even to slow down. Becoming more present to the moment is an intervention in automation. It wakes us up and keeps us from going through the motions or sleepwalking through life. It introduces the opportunity for consideration and contemplation, and the possibility of recalibration. One of the reasons we might avoid pausing to be more present is that it opens us to vulnerability and everything that comes with it — messy and magical, tumultuous and tender, serious and sacred. But meeting the moment with presence is the gateway to perspective and possibility. Simply being available to all of “what is so” in any given moment is what opens our eyes and hearts to life. This can allow for deeper feelings of belonging as well as isolation, longing as well as satiation. Presence ushers in awareness of the preciousness of life as well as the certainty of its ending. Ironically, it is only through strengthening our capacity to be with vulnerability that we will become more at ease with being present. And vice versa. This is one meaningful purpose of practice.
Learning to quiet an actively tumultuous mind in favor of the sanctity of the present moment is one of the most useful and powerful things we can do for our well-being.
When we are fully in the moment, we will be frequently surprised and able to learn from life as it unfolds. How can we possibly take things for granted when we behold the ever-renewing ever-newness to life? Slowing down allows us to notice the nuances of our feelings and experiences, and this is what makes insight possible. And insight can shift everything in favor of greater ease and wisdom. The biggest challenge is that our most painful thoughts often hijack our attention and convince us that to step out of their fray would be useless or a betrayal. When in truth, learning to quiet an actively tumultuous mind in favor of the sanctity of the present moment is one of the most useful and powerful things we can do for our well-being.
Excerpted from Wake Up Grateful: The Transformative Practice of Taking Nothing for Granted by Kristi Nelson (Storey Publishing, November 2020)