Children Live In The NOW
One of the simplest ways to live in the present moment is to be childlike.
Children are such wonderful teachers. After a week with a four year old and a sixteen month old (my grandkids), I was quickly reminded of this. If we want to remember ourselves, and what life is all about, we just need to observe a child for a few minutes. It won’t be long before we appreciate the joy, simplicity and presence that the child exudes, and perhaps we may even wonder, “How can I be more like him/her?”
The quality of being able to enjoy life’s simple moments is not far away. In fact, it is our natural state to do so (or should I say, be so!). Children in their innocence and purity are powerful mirrors that show us what is innately within, and what we long to reconnect to—a presence that has never left us. They help us release a familiar spark from within that says, this is who I am, and always have been, deep inside.
Strange as it may seem, it is harder to not be in the present moment than it is to be in the present moment. That is because, as already mentioned, presence is our natural state. Denying our presence is like pushing a beach ball underwater when it is meant to float amongst the waves and in the sunlight. But this is what we do. We have spent a lifetime learning to sublimate our spirit, living in our heads, and disconnected from the NOW. Obsessing about the past and future has become our natural way of living. It has become habit, and the unnatural has become naturalized. What is hard has sadly become the norm, so much so that we have forgotten that the present moment even exists.
I am not here to preach that I am a master of living in the moment. It is an ongoing practice that I am committed to, and that I learn so much through. What I offer is an opportunity to see what is possible for us if we look into the mirror of children. In their vulnerable state, children are the purest reflections of the essence of life, in all its beauty. They reflect truth in the same way that the untainted aspects of our natural world give us hints as to the reality of life. If we allow children to be their authentic self, they will show us the way. They will guide us back home to the truth of who we are. We just need to be open and receptive, willing to say “Yes” to their world, versus trying to make it our own. When we do, when we practice being present with their world, we learn to be present as a whole. By letting them be, and observing them, listening to them, and staying curious, we enter their world full-heartedly.
It is only the heart that lives in the present moment; not the mind. That is the gift children bring to us – their heart. By offering their heart to us, they invite our heart to come out and play; they invite our joyful, creative selves to dance in the present moment with them, and all of life.
Here are 6 ways children live in the present moment, the NOW. And six ways you can as well.
Children have not lost their connection with their body – where their heart lives and expresses itself through the magic of creative, embodied movement. While children move freely and fluidly, skipping on sidewalks, running to swings, bending over backwards, and doing endless cartwheels, we adults have become rigid. We of course were once just like them, embodied and trusting of our faculties. We weren’t afraid to dance, fall over, or roll in mud, but now we are. Our fears, and our need to be intelligent and rational, to plan our life, and be academic, have moved us progressively away from our hearts/bodies and into our minds/heads. We no longer twirl on sidewalks, but rather move like an arrow, straight ahead to our next destination (while planning the one after that!).
The mind does not live in the present moment. Only the body and heart does. The more we engage the body and set it free, the more we will feed our heart, and our heart will feed our body. And we will live in the boundless wonders of the present moment.
2. Beginner’s Mindset
Children live in the NOW because everything is fresh and new. They have no preconceived notions of how things ought to look or be. “Should” and “shouldn’t” is not vocabulary that they are prone to use. And they don’t have the labels we do, or at least, they are not attached to them. Therefore a tree can be a fort, and a bush can transform into a hideout.
Moreover, children have fewer stories associated with the labels and the objects they are looking at. That is because they have little to no memories attached to a particular object, whereas adults do. Memories are stories retained our mind; stories that are happy, fearful, sad and more. When we view an object, or see a circumstance play out, it can trigger thoughts, which can then trigger emotions, which can then trigger stories or memories. Then these memories and emotions can lead us to new thoughts and emotions, and the next thing we know, we are lost in the past for twenty minutes, with barely any appreciation for the beauty of the sunset that lies before us. We were too busy brooding over how we wish our ex-partner had enjoyed the wild colours of the sunset like we always did. Meanwhile, the child next to us is in awe, looking with reverence without any story or label to distract him. He is perceiving with a freshness such that each moment is a new beginning.
Children live in the process of creation, whereas adults are usually more focused on the outcome of their creation. This deprives adults not only of the enjoyment of the process, but also disconnects them from the infinite creativity that lives in their heart. Their ingrained pattern of living from A-to-B-to-C prevents them from utilizing the power of NOW (sinking into the A), and keeps them ruled by their bottomless list of to-do’s.
Children are not interested in to-do’s; they are only interested in to-be’s – not a list that is created by the mind, as to-do’s are, but rather an ongoing and spontaneous expression of the heart. The fluid state of being in the NOW allows them to move with the arising’s of the creative heart “moment to moment”. Moments blend into each other, leaving the child moving from one stroke of the paint brush to another in constant ease and enjoyment. Nothing will deter him, until something else catches his eye, and then that is the next task at hand. The present moment leads him there.
4. Dreams and Imagination
Children have tremendous faith in the power of their dreams and imagination. They do not question them in the same way we do as adults. They trust them and allow their dreams and imagination to inform them about what is true or real, what life is all about, and what their place in the world is.
Being a fairy princess is perfectly reasonable in the heart of a child, and we don’t want to take that away from her. That is because dreams and imagination are inspirations of the heart. It is the soul’s way of offering a larger picture of reality, one that transcends the limits of the mind and conventional living. Take away a dream, and in its place we may impose a reality that in no way reflects the child’s spirit. The more this is done, the more the child will live disconnected from her heart and the NOW. She will grow up with a cacophony of shoulds and shouldn’ts that keeps her in her head, and away from the guiding whispers of her soul where dreams and imagination are inspired.
5. Uninhibited and Free
Children are not afraid to let their feelings be shown. When emotion arises, they let it out. They scream loudly. They laugh unabashedly. They cry with deep tearful rivers flowing down their cheeks. What emerges from within in any moment is seen and heard with no instant to spare. There is no mistaking how the child feels. Moreover, when the child expresses one emotion, after a few moments she is onto the next. She is happy, sad and angry within a span of forty seconds. And then suddenly all is forgotten, and she is transfixed by her toy doll.
What a powerful and insightful thing to witness! What a teaching for the rest of us on how to live courageously with our emotions; on how to live in a fluid state such that emotion is freely and immediately expressed, released as energy in motion – E-Motion. Eventually, when a child is taught that it is unsafe to feel and express certain emotions, then she will decide consciously or subconsciously to block the flow of energy related to these emotions. They will become stuck. That is the birth of illness, and the death of her freedom to honor the fullness of here and NOW.
Young children have not yet lost their enchantment with life. A small child stands at the edge of a vast ocean and looks in wonder and awe. Many moments will pass, and still, there she is, gazing, barely moving. The child does not know the name of the ocean, nor what is in it, but she revels in the colors, the birds flying above, and the sparkles of sunlight dancing on the waves.
This enchantment of what the present moment contains is available to all of us. We can experience it in any endeavor such as making a meal and cleaning the toilet, if only we allow ourselves to engage life from the NOW; if we just take a deep breath, and release the agendas of our discursive mind; if we engage our senses, take in the feeling of the wind on our skin, the radiant colors, the variegated textures and sounds, and the feelings that emerge in our body. We can be present if only we allow ourselves to pause and appreciate the beauty and abundance of life once again, the same way we did when we were children. Only then will we commune with the essence of life and ourselves, an essence that can only be experienced in the present moment.
Credits: Thank you Brooklyn & Camden for being my teacher. Papaw loves you immensely. xoxo
I was day-trading stocks at the time, so I had three monitors and CNBC on TV at my desk. It was there that I watched transfixed as the horrific day of infamy unfolded in real-time.
Personally, my life sucked. I was going through a divorce, moving a business to another location, and now I would soon receive confirmation I lost two friends who worked at the World Trade Center. I remember talking with friends in NYC days later and hearing their shocking eyewitness accounts of watching people jump to their deaths prior to the collapse of the towers. I felt myself spiraling into depression. Yeah me.
Having dinner with a psychiatrist friend a few weeks later, he noticed I did not seem right. And of course, coming from a psychology background I could tell through his questions he was checking off indications of severe depression. I was open and tried my best to be authentic and forthcoming. He told me that I was off the chart and pleaded that I start taking an antidepressant. I knew exactly what antidepressants would do, they would help take the “bad feelings” away and that was what my psychiatrist friend wanted for me, I knew that. I initially resisted, but in the end, accepted his prescription for Zoloft.
Two weeks into my prescription (it takes a while to get into your system) the medication took effect. The bad feelings were gone, I was able to work and function again, but it was more of a numbness. I didn’t feel the bad feelings, but I also realized I was not feeling a lot of the good feelings either. The kicker was I was having a “hard” time (pun) getting it up. Shit. Trust me, as a member of the “single, red-blooded male who likes sex” population, that was BIG. That was my turning point. I flushed the rest of the Zoloft down the toilet. I knew what I had to do. In reflection, that was the last prescription drug I have ever taken.
I launched into a physical workout schedule, started studying nutrition, personal development/self-awareness, and my spiritual journey. I have always been one to fly in the face of “You cannot do this”. My goal? Get back in excellent physical shape, create the best version of me possible, get back to my roots in counseling, and become a “Life Coach”. This was October 2001. I was at 6’5″, 280 lbs., not bad if you were sacking QB’s, but not good after you hang up your cleats. I gave myself until New Year 2002 to get down to my senior high school playing weight of 235. I lost the weight by Christmas. I celebrated by taking myself to Negril, Jamaica for my birthday in January. I had the best time of my life.
Yes, in the midst of the chaos/horror, 9/11 was a turning point for me.
Flash forward to 9/9/2006:
My mother had passed away in ’05, my father moved in with me, and we had moved to Sunset Beach, NC. We were the “Odd Couple” but hell, we lived at the beach now, there was no whining for me. Pop was transitioning through the loss of his bride of 56 years, it was slow. I had started my web design company, NetInFused, and was also enjoying my new career as a professional life coach. We had a 3 bedroom condo, it was a Saturday, and were attending a party to meet my next-door neighbors.
That’s when I met Al.
Al and his wife lived below me. I could tell by their accent they were New Yorkers, I love NYC. Al’s wife was a hoot, she took a liking to me, we connected. Al, on the other hand, was friendly, but very quiet. And the quiet was strange, I immediately sensed that Al had some deep unresolved pain. Oddly, it reminded me of postwar PTSD effects. I would soon realize that I was on target.
Al’s wife pulled me aside at the party. “Do you know who my husband is?” I said no. “My husband is Albert Turi, Deputy Assistant Chief (F.D.N.Y.). He was at ground zero during 9/11. He lost 343 men that day. This coming Monday will be the 5th anniversary, Al is having a really hard time.” I thanked her for sharing the information. I was instantly taken back to that day. I felt his pain, I felt my pain. I remembered my turning point. Al and I did not talk anymore that Saturday.
Monday, September 11, 2006. 5th Anniversary of 9/11
I walked outside my condo sometime during the day and noticed Al walking. We greeted each other and then I put my arm around him and said:
“Al, I feel your pain. I lost two friends at the WTC. I am sorry for the magnitude of your loss. Thank you for your service and incredible bravery five years ago. You are my hero.”
Later, Al would share with me things that I could not fathom about that day. He was there, one of the first to arrive, was in the basement, heard explosions, and witnessed both collapses. He shared with me some deep shit. I will never forget it. I was emotionally and physically moved. We cried together.
Another turning point.
After that, I never took LIFE for granted again. A few months later, Al and his wife left the beach and moved back to NYC. I lost touch with him, but will always remember our moments together.
Close to 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center and its vicinity, including a staggering 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors.
A Turning Point in LIFE.
Live and Love, like there is no tomorrow.
Utmost honor and respect, forever.
Responding vs. Reacting in Life
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Often time people don’t notice the difference between responding to something and reacting to something. Both require an action and both are usually instigated by a situation or cause outside of oneself. But the difference between these two behaviors can be quite profound. The difference between responding versus reacting means a bad situation can become worse or a bad situation can become better. Or the opposite can happen. The choice in behavior can make a good situation bad or a good situation even better. The importance of recognizing the two choices in your life is significant.
The act of responding requires one to look at the circumstance, identify the problem or situation, hear what is happening and reflect. That reflection can be for a moment, five seconds, one hour, two days or longer. The time frame doesn’t matter. What matters is that you stopped and put an effort to think and suspended judgment. It is a conscious act and shows that you are willing to listen or observe. This “gap” between the circumstance and your behavior is what contributes to gaining a sense of control in your life. Once a person can identify that in responding they actually have a choice in the manner, he/she will start to realize that they are able to make better decisions. The key is that pause. If the situation requires an immediate action, then just take a deep breath first. This alone can help one gain a semblance of control and make one choose an alternative statement or action that can make a big difference in an outcome of a situation.
Reacting on other hand is the absence of this time gap. It is an immediate behavioral response and it is usually based upon emotions and not intellect. Reacting to events, reacting to comments from other people or reacting to sudden situations in an immediate way, can create unpredictable outcomes. When intellect or logic is bypassed for emotional vengeance, then there is a greater chance that irrationality will take over. Usually when you react you are unprepared and overwhelmed in feeling (i.e. anger, frustration, lust etc.) that your intention becomes strictly one-sided. As a person has an immediate reaction it is unlikely that the person has even considered the other person’s point of view or understanding. Immediately reacting can also mean that the person is not thinking about future consequences. The person is only identifying with his/her immediate emotions and using the emotions as a point of reference.
Now, there are obviously certain times and places for reacting. Humans have this innate biological mechanism for a reason. If you were being attacked for instance, you would want to immediately react for survival. If you’re driving the car and a dog jumps out in front of you, you will usually swerve to avoid hitting the dog without much thought. The problem arises when a person can only identify him/herself with emotions and not mindful reasoning and the need to react becomes a constant type of response mechanism. In the extreme sense a person who only uses reaction over responding can become emotionally overwhelmed thus producing hysterical or illogical behavior. Numerous and ongoing problems can arise for those having no impulse control or the ability to self regulate emotions.
The benefit of understanding and identifying both these types of behavior in ourselves is immense for personal growth.
For one, this knowledge shows you that you have options and more control over circumstances than you realize. The effect of going through life in a reactive mode ultimately becomes draining, difficult and can even bring about isolation. In addition, constant reacting to life puts you in the ‘victim’ role, a role that makes life a struggle and unfulfilling.
Making an effort to respond on other hand helps you establish control. Responding takes a conscious effort and builds mind control. Responding looks at others actions and consequences and provides a more holistic approach to behavior. Responding, not reacting will get you closer to what you want.
Sometimes people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to be there, to serve some sort of purpose, teach you a lesson, or to help you figure out who you are or who you want to become.
You never know who these people may be..
Possibly your roommate, neighbor, co-worker, long lost friend, lover, or even a complete stranger..
But when you lock eyes with them, you know at that very moment they will affect your life in some profound way.
And sometimes things happen to you that may seem horrible, painful, and unfair at first, but in reflection you find that without overcoming those obstacles you would have never realized your potential, strength, willpower, or heart.
Everything happens for a reason.
Nothing happens by chance or by means of good luck.
Illness, injury, love, lost moments of true greatness, and sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of your soul. Without these small tests, whatever they may be, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight, flat road to nowhere. It would be safe and comfortable, but dull and utterly pointless.
The people you meet who affect your life, and the success and downfalls you experience, help to create who you are and who you become.
Even the bad experiences can be learned from.
In fact, they are probably the most poignant and important ones.
If someone hurts you, betrays you, or breaks your heart, forgive them, for they have helped you learn about trust and the importance of being cautious when you open your heart.
If someone loves you, love them back unconditionally, not only because they love you, but because in a way, they are teaching you to love and how to open your heart and eyes to things.
Make every day count.
Appreciate every moment and take from those moments everything that you possibly can, for you may never be able to experience it again.
Talk to people that you have never talked to before, and actually listen.
Let yourself fall in love, break free, and set your sights high.
Hold your head up because you have every right to.
Tell yourself you are a great individual and believe in yourself, for if you don’t believe in yourself, it will be hard for others to believe in you.
You can make of your life anything you wish.
Create your own life and then go out and live it with absolutely no regrets.
If you LOVE someone tell him or her, for you never know what tomorrow may have in store.
And learn a lesson in life each day that you live.
Perhaps my friends..
This is “The Story of Life”.
Your Story Isn’t Over Yet
Stop focusing on all the things you don’t know how to do and start cultivating the things you do know how to do. You have something beautiful to place in this world. Don’t keep it buried inside your soul because you are afraid it’s not good enough.
Stop caring about what is good enough and just do your thing. This life my love is your only one. I say that so often because I want you to understand how fragile your story is. How in a blink of an eye it ends.
While you have this time I want you to fill up your book of life with pages of creation, laughter, joy, and love. I don’t want to watch the pages pass by. Each one blank because you were too afraid to mess up the words. Too afraid to share something. Too afraid of who would see and what they would think.
You have something inside of you that this world needs. Someone on this earth needs your words, messy or not and your story to continue their own. Your story matters. The life you live makes a difference. What is important to you could shine a light so bright it could heal someone’s soul. Isn’t that reason enough to try?
I know you are scared. And I know the fears have become walls so high and thick they seem unbreakable. They are not. Don’t let them deceive you into thinking you are a meaningless nobody. Tear those walls down. Let your faith and belief rip every brick out of your way. You were born a treasure and you will die a treasure. Fear doesn’t change that. Doubt doesn’t change that. Scars don’t change that.
Don’t look at the big picture. Don’t focus on how far you think you have to go. Don’t think so much just do it.
Just pick up that pen and write something. Write anything.
Grab your camera and take those photos. Let the world see what you see.
Take that class you’ve been wanting to and learn something you want to learn.
Draw. I mean it just draw. Don’t think of what it should be. Let your hands and the paper guide you.
Do something. Create something. Share it with me and the world.
I believe in you. I believe in your story.
And I believe your story will help someone tear down their own walls and let the light in.
Your story isn’t over yet.