12th May, 2023
The setting was Burning Man, an electronic arts and music festival for which 50,000 people descend on Black Rock City, Nevada, for eight days of “radical self-expression”—dancing, socializing, meditating, and debauchery.
A friend was walking in the desert when he found the telephone to God.
A phone booth in the middle of the desert with a sign that said “Talk to God” was a surreal sight even at Burning Man. The idea was that you picked up the phone, and God—or someone claiming to be God—would be at the other end to ease your pain.
So when God came on the line asking how he could help, my friend was ready. “How can I live more in the moment?” he asked. Too often, he felt, the beautiful moments of his life were drowned out by a cacophony of self-consciousness and anxiety. What could he do to hush the buzzing of his mind?
“Breathe,” replied a soothing male voice.
My friend flinched at the tired new-age mantra, then reminded himself to keep an open mind. When God talks, you listen.
“Whenever you feel anxious about your future or your past, just breathe,” continued God. “Try it with me a few times right now. Breathe in… breathe out.” And despite himself, my friend began to relax.
Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, and squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past.
We’re always doing something, and we allow little time to practice stillness and calm.
When we’re at work, we fantasize about being on vacation; on vacation, we worry about the work piling up on our desks. We dwell on intrusive memories of the past or fret about what may or may not happen in the future. We don’t appreciate the living present because our “monkey minds,” as Buddhists call them, vault from thought to thought like monkeys swinging from tree to tree.
We need to live more in the moment. Living in the moment—also called mindfulness—is a state of active, open, intentional attention on the present.
But, thinking too hard about what you’re doing actually makes you do worse.
If you’re in a situation that makes you anxious—giving a speech, introducing yourself to a stranger, dancing—focusing on your anxiety tends to heighten it.
Focus less on what’s going on in your mind and more on what’s going on in the room, less on your mental chatter and more on yourself as part of something.
However, living in the moment involves a profound paradox: You can’t pursue it for its benefits. That’s because the expectation of reward launches a future-oriented mindset, which subverts the entire process. Instead, you just have to trust that the rewards will come.
You can become mindful at any moment just by paying attention to your immediate experience. You can do it right now.
What’s happening this instant?
And if you notice your mind wandering, bring yourself back. Just say to yourself, “Now. Now. Now.”
Live in the moment & stay blessed forever.