Mindfulness: The Gift of Taking Refuge in the Present Moment
Then I remembered a quote from the Vietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh:
“If we practice mindfulness, we always have a place to go when we’re afraid.”
This inspired me to gently say to myself about these thoughts: “Not now.” Then I took three conscious breaths, paying careful attention to the physical sensation of the breath as it came in and went out of my body. This replaced the worry with a sense of calm. Then I said to myself: “Stay in the moment by truly experiencing what it’s like to be driving a car on a freeway.”
And what experience it was. I felt as if I were on the autopia ride at Disneyland. It was quite a feat to be moving so fast while also being sure to stay exactly between the painted lines. I was impressed with my skills! And I was amazed at how dozens of cars right around me were going just as fast but not crashing into each other. It occurred to me that this was an exquisite example of social order at work.
And that MRI result? Everything was normal.
I’ve been doing this exercise many times throughout each day. When I realize I’m lost in stressful thoughts, I say, “not now” as I bring my attention to the present moment by taking three conscious breaths. Then I notice what’s going on around me right here, right now.
I think of these little moments of awareness as moments of liberation because, in my experience, being present for my experience brings with it a feeling of contentment that’s often tinged with awe, as I pause and take in the wonder and mystery of being alive at this moment—even with its challenges and difficulties.
Recently, one of our town’s most treasured citizens passed away after a good long life. The obituary in our local paper noted that Martha loved to say: “The past is history. The future is a mystery. The present is a gift.”