Recently I’ve been thinking about life and death. Not in a morbid way but through illness and some recent events I have realised how unpredictable and transient life is.
So can living “moment to moment” help us live a longer more content life?
What do I mean by moment to moment living? Well here’s a couple of quotes I like:
“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment” Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure
“It’s not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it” Seneca, Roman Stoic, philosopher and statesman.
Both these men lived thousands of miles apart and were separated by centuries of time but reached the same conclusion.
If we live our life either continually looking back to the past or looking to the future, we miss out on what’s happening now. If we don’t pay heed to each moment, before we know it the moments have all gone and we’re at the end of our time.
Who of us is going to look back on life and say I wish I would have spent more time being bored, moaning or doing things that made me sad?
I’m not advocating in any way that we should avoid making plans and shouldn’t sometimes look back on past events. Whether these past events be good or sad, remembering things and people is good for us on occasions, especially when we remember people we may have lost. Likewise looking forward to a hard earned holiday can help us through a tough day.
So the past and the future may be nice to visit but they are not for spending too much of our time in. The only thing we have control and influence over is this moment now.
It is said that if we look after the now and live in the present moment, the future and the now that becomes the past will look after itself. Living fully aware of the now and switching off the “autopilot” lets us engage in life more fully so making life as long as it needs to be to meet our needs.
In martial arts such as aikido, when we train we can become immersed in each moment. Initially our mind can drift but once we get into the movement and the technique, the sharing of energy between uke and tori can become the centre of focus for us.
We can totally engage in the “moment” of developing each technique and movement. The practice becomes the centre of our attention often excluding other thoughts and distractions. The dojo becomes the world. A class will often seem to fly by but afterwards it’s amazing how much we have crammed into the hour or two.
Living each moment also means accepting things as they are. Things don’t always go the way we would like them to. “Things” develop a life of their own, so we need to respond to what’s happening not what we wished would happen.
This lesson can be learnt in our Aikido training for example we may not get things right or uke may not do what we expect but being in that moment allows us to react more appropriately to what’s really happening rather than our pre conceived ideas of what should happen. Remember that in the times of the Samurai this ability to react in the moment to the reality of a situation could be the difference between life and death.
So I take this lesson from keiko and extend that “moment to moment” living into my everyday life. Especially as I have come to realise recently that plans may seem good but often don’t turn out the way we expect and life is very unpredictable at best.
Living as much as we can in the here and now allows us to experience the moments fully and be able to react to that unpredictability. So at the end we can say:
“I accepted and dealt with what happened,” rather than spending my life thinking: “Only if that had happened the way I wanted I would have been OK”
A final quote:
“Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life” Marcus Aurelius in his meditations (Roman Emperor, soldier and philosopher).
As always with me, it’s a work in progress.