When I first married, I felt such joy, peace and love in my spirit. I thanked God for bringing Karen into my life and a part of my life. It was a time of new beginnings and the world felt so ripe for our new venture.
Two years later those feelings of joy of living disappeared, replaced with anxiety of responsibilities. We bought a house; we had our first son; we experienced too much debt and not enough income, too many things to worry about.
Suddenly, I wasn’t sleeping. Fearful thoughts settled in my brain like a bad cold: Will we lose our house? How can I make more money? Is our son okay? Can we get the roof leaks fixed by winter? These and many more ruminations constantly plagued me.
Each day I felt more negative emotions building. We prayed. We held each other. We took solace in each other’s company, but it wasn’t enough.
Then one day I stood in our backyard among our six walnut trees and something strange happened. Just that moment standing among the green and gold leaves waving in the Fall breeze I felt an immense peace of mind almost euphoric. Suddenly, all my negative emotions left me, replaced by a strong warmth and peace.
I recognized that I wasn’t worrying about the future. I wasn’t dwelling on past mistakes. I thought of only the present moment. I didn’t do it consciously. It just happened.
We still had money troubles and a child to raise, but for the time I stayed thinking only of the present, I felt like I was in heaven on this earth, feeling I can only describe as joy.
It would be years later I’d learn about mindfulness, about the dangers and evils of trying to control a certain future or dwelling on the past.
Most times the thoughts that stay with me are scary like “What will happen when my job is gone for good?” I envision all sorts of terrible scenarios. Thoughts that made me afraid. Thoughts that made me upset about something I did or did not do or have. Thoughts about goals and accomplishing these goals. My meditation helps me clear my focus and just think about the present moment and I’m filled with an incredible peace of mind. It’s funny sometimes I hear a tiny voice say, “Welcome back.”
Through meditation, I never noticed how much my mind pulled me into negative emotions of the future or the passed or how much I resented a person’s opinion on a topic. I became aware of just how these thoughts control my thinking. It was like traffic on a road, the thoughts zip by, slow down and sometime stop long enough for me to really look at what I’m thinking.
When I concentrate on what is in this moment and I appreciate all that I have this moment Joy comes to my heart no matter what my fears, regrets or annoyances.
I realize that I still need to face my responsibilities, but constant dwelling on them wasn’t healthy either. Research shows better decision making in the present moment (Debiasing the Mind Through Meditation: Mindfulness and the Sunk-Cost Bias).
The present moment is not easy place to stay. It is like a tightrope, a narrow window of timelessness. It take lots of practice for me to stay present and not let the thoughts about what happened in the past or what might happen in the future shake the joy I feel in the present moment.
Many books discuss the present moment. Some of my favorites include, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. The one book that really stands out that surprised me is The Biophilia Effect by Clemens G. Arvay. Translated from German, it offers evidence to support the benefits of being in and around nature. I’ve always felt a sense of peace being around trees. I feel most in the present moment when I gaze at trees or a tree. Strange, I know, but I feel such peace in this activity. This book attempts to show empirical evidence of these benefits.
Beside books, phone apps offer help to get to the present moment. My personal favorite is Headspace. It helps clear thought traffic from my mind, too. There are others but ironically, one that will remain nameless caused me more stress with its billing than the benefit received from the app.
May we all find joy in the present moment no matter what our worries. We deserve the break.