We live in a world where there is never enough. We constantly feel as if we have to do more, be more, go faster, work harder, accomplish more, go farther. We are in a constant state of “not good enough” or comparing what we have to someone else. And while I am all about having goals and always trying to push or stretch ourselves in many ways, it is really hard in our culture to really be present where we are because we are constantly thinking about the next move or what we lack.
It’s overwhelming. It’s frustrating. It’s unfulfilling … because what we really want, the thing that is really going to make us happy or make us successful is juuuuust out of reach.
But what if I told you that what is out there in the great beyond—those dreams and goals on your vision board—they are not the key to unlocking your happiness?
The key to happiness is right now. As in this very instant that you lock eyes with these words. Once you can find gratitude and joy and love in your life as it is right now, without any changes or minor improvements, everything else will open up to you. It doesn’t mean that you can’t desire more in your life, just that you need to be grateful for what you have right now, to look back on your journey and see how far you have come and recognize that the fact that you are alive, that you have a roof over your head and the technology at your fingertips to be reading this means that you are wildly blessed.
I know what you are thinking. That all of this sounds great, but you just have so many problems and challenges in your life and it’s so dark.
I understand. I know what that is. I have been through and continue to go through struggle and dark times. What I am asking you to do is to stop looking at the macro and zone in on the micro. Don’t focus on your life as a whole right now, focus on this very second.
This has been the most effective way that I have found to combat my anxiety and depression and frustration when it threatens to take over, and I call it a “mindful moment”. Here is what you do:
1.) Stop wherever you are. If you have to pull off on the side of the road, do it. If you have to lock yourself in the bathroom and hide from your kids, do it. If you have to just stare at your computer at work to trick your boss into believing you are working, do that too. But stop.
2.) Engage all of your senses. Take a deep breath. What is the quality of the air? Is it hot or cold? Light or heavy? Is it crisp or muggy? Don’t judge it, just observe it. Do this for all of your senses. Feel the ground under your feet. Notice the colors in the room. Listen in for the sounds. Just observe them.
3.) Recognize the miracles. What is good about the things that you witnessed in the moment? Maybe the air smells like the vanilla candle that is burning, or the shouts of your kids mean that they are healthy and energetic. Maybe the carpet beneath your feet is soft and soothing or you have shoes on—what a blessing to have shoes! Maybe the song you are listening to reminds you of a good memory or you are sitting across from your favorite coworker. Maybe the colors in the room are just so vibrant, or so muted, and they come together really beautifully.
4.) Be thankful. Just know that in this very moment, your every need is taken care of. Whatever struggles you may be facing or worries about the future, right now you have clothes on your body, food on your table, and people in your life who you love and who love you.
5.) Go to work. What are the things in your environment that you found brought you stress? Is there a recap of a presidential debate on tv in the background that is grating on your last nerve? Is there a funky smell? Or stuffy air? Turn off the tv, spray some air freshener, open a window. When you get super present in the moment, you get present to what the things are that are causing you to feel off-balance and then you have more control to remedy them. Choose to see the good things but be proactive about the things that are bringing down your vibes. Change what you can, send love to what you can’t.
For example, a few weeks ago I was pulling out of my driveway onto the busy road that I live on. I was turning left, which would require me to cross four lanes of traffic and for the coast to be clear both ways. Well on the street that I live on by the freeway in L.A. that is a nearly impossible circumstance, but there is a turn lane in the middle of the road where I can often pull in to leapfrog my way across. So that’s what I did. What I didn’t realize is that someone was pulling into that turn lane to actually turn just as I was crossing into it to just chill and wait for the traffic to subside. We narrowly missed one another, but he was unhappy with me and let me know it. He was cursing and gesturing and honking and calling me every name in the book. I was frightened and shaken up and just wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could. But the traffic continued and I just had to sit and take it. It was probably 15 seconds but it felt like 15,000. As I pulled away, I was rattled and angry at that man. How dare he say those things to me? Didn’t he see that he was in my blind spot? I didn’t intentionally pull out in front of him. Why did he have to be such a jerk?
So I pulled to the side of the road and took a mindful moment. I realized that my windows were down and the breeze was cool, a song that reminded me of home was playing on the radio, the sun was bright and brilliant, as was the green color of the palm trees around me. I said a little prayer giving thanks that I was ok, and I realized after a moment that what that man said wasn’t about me. He likely was just scared like me or having a crappy day or is just someone who was deeply dissatisfied with his life and felt like he needed to lash out. So I chose to release it, send love to him, to be thankful that I was ok, and to move forward with my day in peace.
A few weeks ago I was at an event for Gabrielle Bernstein and an audience member asked her if she always felt connected to the universe and the sense of peace and calm in the future that comes with that connection. And she literally laughed and said no. Of course not. She said something along the lines of, “I am not concerned with the fact that you stay in that state. What I am concerned with is how quickly you come back.”
Bingo. Life is going to hurl arrows at you from every angle and you are going to feel like you are getting knocked out of the game. There are going to be moments where you feel like an utter failure and that your life totally sucks. That is just life.
But that’s not the point.
The point is how quickly we can get back to gratitude and love and acceptance when we are thrown off. The point is that whatever the future holds is in the future… the most we can do is focus on bringing the love and joy to the now and recognize that when we focus on those things that are good, we will attract more of them into our lives.