Week 14: Life in the moment

I didn’t write last week because I was on vacation in Greece, traveling from Athens to Santorini to Naxos to Mykonos and back to Athens. We didn’t have more than two days in any one place, and we were on the go site-seeing and exploring every day. It was a barrage of incredible sites, beautiful scenery, tiny villages and delicious food. It was all amazing.

The entire trip, I was making a constant, conscious effort to be present. I took more pictures than I can count, but I also did everything I could to take it in. I would stand at a lookout, snap 10 pictures, then put my phone down and just stare. Whether sea or mountains or village, I did my best to scan my eyes back and forth, as if taking a panoramic shot with my mind. I wanted to imprint those visuals on my memory, so that I might still recall the details 50 years from now. Every day, I was aware of how lucky I was to be there, how unique an experience I was having and how few people on this earth will ever see what I saw in those eight days.

A trip to Greece is a particular example, but this effort to be present applies to my daily life too.

Before the trip, I was crazy busy, between working and hosting my brother and getting ready to travel. I’ve heard it said that’s a good thing — being busy makes the time before a trip go faster. But while I love having something to look forward to and I love countdowns more than most people, I’m almost never trying to just rush to the next thing. I’m not wishing for time to go faster so I can get to something else; I’m trying to enjoy the day-to-day.

Granted, I am fortunate enough to enjoy my daily life — that certainly makes living in the moment easier — but it’s also a conscious decision. It’s so easy to always be focused on the next thing, be it a plan or task or errand. I do fall into that trap, but I try to be present and aware, even for the little stuff.

Yoga is big on presence, and that’s likely part of why I have become more aware of my awareness (and sometime lack thereof). Yoga teaches you to be in the moment, to clear your mind, to release stresses, to erase external distractions.

That’s easier said than done. I struggle — greatly — to stay focused in yoga. Sometimes, I want to rush to the payoff of feeling great after class. Sometimes, my to-do list is nagging at me. Sometimes (OK, a lot of the time), I am just antsy. But then I am conscious of this, and I try to stop, ignore the distraction and be present.

Yoga also teaches gratitude, and I have come to see the two go hand-in-hand, for you can’t fully appreciate something if you aren’t fully present in that moment. You can’t fully absorb an experience if part of your brain is in another one.

That’s a scary thing in today’s world. We are on our phones constantly. We see the world through the lens of a camera instead of that of our own eyes. We post pictures on social media when we could be looking at the real thing for a few more seconds.

In Greece, I tried to check that — not that distractions weren’t there. When is our next ferry? How do we get back to the hotel? Where are we on this map? What’s next on our to-see list? Why is this car making that sound? … But as much as possible, I shook them off and stayed in the moment. I took pictures, and then I really looked, soaked it up, imprinted on my memory. Fingers crossed I did a good enough job to last me five decades.

This reminds me of that ’90s song with the lyrics “These are the days we remember.” I want to cultivate my awareness because I am living days I want to remember. I know good things are happening for me, and I know I am having amazing experiences. Not to mention, enough people have reminisced to me about their 20s that I know I need to make them count.

So I will continue to do my best to be aware, to appreciate and to cement memories while I am making them — and also taking tons of pictures.

Endnotes:

Currently reading: The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Currently watching: The past two weeks’ worth of all my shows

Song of the week: NeedToBreathe’s “Brother”

Plans for the weekend: This is the only April weekend I’ll be in L.A., so I’m just trying to get my life in order and catch up with friends. Hopefully, I’ll hit the beach and get in lots of yoga and running too.

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