During this morning’s treadmill workout, I tuned in to NBC’s Today Show. Today’s guest, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, an American physician, broadcast journalist and frequent guest on NBC’s Today Show and MSNBC, told a story about appreciating the moment. She said about eight years ago, when her son was very young, a butterfly landed on a bush nearby and he said “That’s today’s gift”. As she told the story, she made the point of how important it is – to our health – to stop throughout the day and savor the moment. She suggests taking a moment during each day and noticing what can be seen, heard or smelled…and to “let it be”.
As a longtime mindfulness practitioner and educator, I fully agree with Dr. Snyderman, and feel encouraged and happy to hear a well-known television personality on a widely viewed morning program speak to the importance of paying attention in the moment. Even a little bit of mindfulness brought to a single moment can break a pattern of constant “doing” and, instead, remind us that a simple act of bringing our attention to “being” – to seeing, listening, smelling – can interrupt a pattern of thoughts and actions driven by urgency and notions of life being better once something is “achieved”.
For most of us, a typical day involves rushing from task to task, forgetting there are other options available to us for coping with our day. Even the smallest bit of mindfulness, brought to any moment, can be an awakening and can shift a pattern of rush and “must do”. We don’t have to stop what we’re doing or run for the nearest mountaintop to bring a conscious and aware presence to the moment. We can simply allow ourselves to pause and bring a greater moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness to life as it is unfolding – right here, right now, just as it is.
Have any of you experienced down days or possibly depression itself? If so, it may be helpful to know that making heroic attempts to change how we feel ( our inner world) or change other people, places or events (our outer world) may not be necessary to experience a lift in our mood. Instead, a simple shift in the way we pay attention to our lives can make all the difference. Mindfulness is not paying more attention or exaggerating our attentiveness – but paying attention differently and more wisely: with the whole mind and heart, using the full resources of the body and its ways of sensing.
Dr. Snyderman’s little boy has a great lesson for all of us, I believe. And that is to appreciate, in the midst of life’s busyness, the gift of a single moment. Sometimes there will be butterflies. Other times the simple peace that comes from pausing…and appreciating life just as it is.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the author of The Sun My Heart, and well-known peace activist and mindfulness teacher says: “Peace can exist only in the present moment. It is foolish to say “Wait until I finish this, then I will be free to live in peace. What is “this”? A diploma, a job, a house, the payment of a debt? If you think that way, peace will never come. There is always another “this” that will follow the present one. If you are not living in peace at this moment, you will never be able to. If you truly want to be at peace, you must be at peace right now. Otherwise, there is only “the hope of peace someday”.
What has shown up in your day, reminding you to stop and appreciate the moment?