Living present – feet firmly planted in the moment – has become my life’s philosophy – my daily mission. This mantra, though, wiggled its way into my life as the whispers to live a more authentic life turned into rather obnoxious clamours! It took the worst year of my life to force me to listen and to understand the importance of mindfulness, living focused on what is happening in the moment, and loving the life I am living.
I arrived at this point out of necessity when I realized I was alive without really living. The stresses of my life were killing me, especially when I considered the way I medicated myself with food. Because I am a naturally bubbly, gregarious person, to others, I seemed to have a great life, and for the most part, I did. I was raising two amazing children who are the center of my universe, I have incredible friendships that sustain me, and I have been called to teach (a gift in itself).
What I didn’t realize, though, was that unresolved life trauma was impacting my habits – not facing them posed barriers to truly being alive. Like so many of us, I was letting life happen. And then, 2014, the worst year of my life, shoved me so violently, I realized I had to make major changes. The year began with the diagnosis of my 21-year-old daughter’s brain tumor and ended with difficult emotional trauma at work. By the end of 2014, when I went to my annual physical, I was the heaviest I had ever been, I was depressed, and I felt like the world was about to collapse on me.
I had two choices: continue on the same path or take intentional control of my life. I chose the latter.
Shifting to living in the moment – the next play speed – required me to make several key changes. First of all, I had to understand how the trauma of my childhood impacted my adult relationships and my coping mechanisms. This occurred through counseling, reading important texts by others navigating life intentionally, and journaling. I am also fortunate to have a few friends in what Brene Brown calls a square squad – the few people in my life who hold me accountable and are honest with me about my thoughts and actions.
Second, I realized only I could take back my health. I joined a weight loss program and focused on my diet and exercise. Focusing on my mental and physical health changed the game for me. The more I realized I could control my food intake and the amount of exerecise I expended, the more I realized I could also redirect my thoughts. I began to hold on less to the past and worry less about the future; I began to lead a more authentic life.
In sports, atheletes who develop the next play speed let mistakes go immediately, and they certainly don’t worry about mistakes they might make in the future. Instead, they live second by second focused on the game so intensely they can change their direction on the playing field in less than a second. They are fully present in the moment. Obviously, the future does require attention in terms of planning for our security and happiness, and learning from our past mistakes also informs our now; however, they do not have to dominate our thinking.
I have also realized that I am a work in progress, and the best I can do is live the most authentic, present life I can. For those who hope to live a more mindful, authentic life, start today. Spend 5 minutes focusing on what is happening around you – the sounds – the people – the breeze – the smiles – the purr of the cat. The more we practice these little moments of truly paying attention, they become habit. They allow us to live in the next play speed.