The Best Time To Experience The Present Moment Is Now

The Best Time To Experience The Present Moment Is Now

So there I was.

5:30 AM standing on Coast Guard Beach.

Eastham, Cape Cod. 

Here comes the sun, as the song says.

I’m drawn to sunrises, even if at times it’s a long drive to see one. I left my home a few minutes before 4:00 on this Sunday morning just to see the sun appear out of the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Certainly, sunrises can be a metaphor for new beginnings and new light. I just happen to think they are simply really cool to witness.

This one didn’t disappoint. The sky’s subtle transition from dark to light revealed a spectacular array of colors and textures in the sky and along the shore. In the shallow water in front of me several seal pups swam parallel to the shore, unimpressed with the sights and sounds around them, the crashing of the ocean waves illuminated by the ever-changing angle of the sun.

With me, as always, was my camera, my trusted companion in capturing the fire and majesty of the births of many new days. But today the camera wasn’t the priority.

I’ve watched the sunrise on this and other beaches many times over the years. Each one it’s own unrepeatable magnificent creation. And with each one came my intention to perfectly capture it, camera in hand. At some point in my photographic journey, though, I realized that I had unintentionally become more concerned with preserving the moment than actually experiencing it. My egoic desire to own the moment prevented me from actually fully enjoying the moment.

Egoic, because I had made this about about me and my need to perfectly capture what was in front of me. Egoic, knowing I’d be disappointed if the images I captured didn’t meet my exacting standard.

It made me wonder about other moments in my life where I chose, consciously or unconsciously, to surrender the present moment in favor of attempting to relive it at a later time. How much of the present moment is lost when we need to immediately share that moment on Facebook and Instagram? What if instead of photographing our food we chose to first actually enjoy it instead?

The best time to experience the present moment is now. 

I still greatly enjoy the photographic side of a sunrise, ever working at refining my skills with the goal of faithfully capturing the beauty of what’s in front of me. But the priority is to now be more fully present to witness the spectacle and wonder of what’s unfolding in front of me. 

On the beach.

And in life.

The Most Important Decision You’ll Make Each Day

The Most Important Decision You’ll Make Each Day

If I make any noise I’m in trouble.

It’s 4:30 in the morning. The dogs are sleeping on the floor next to me. The intent is to quietly get out of bed and out of the room without waking them from their deep slumber.

It almost never works.

Within seconds of them realizing I’m no longer sleeping, I feel a cold nose on my arm and a tongue on my ankle as the two dogs, now instantly awake, spring to life, their tails acting like drum sticks beating on the bedroom door.

Often, when I’m still silently resting comfortably before I physically move I’ll be greeted by a different type of animal. 

My thoughts.

Unlike the dogs, my thoughts come to life more slowly. It’s as if they are giving me time to gain some focus and clarity before they attempt to take that focus and clarity away from me.

I’ve gotten quite good at just listening to the chatter in my head. Honestly, I’m amazed at what goes on in there. I’ve become a curious witness, just observing without getting involved in what’s being said. Just noticing.

My thoughts like to review what lies ahead for the day, any specific tasks or obligations that I need to tend to. My thoughts also have a propensity to provide me with a list of things I should worry about. It likes to tell me what could go wrong by painting vivid images of exactly what that would look like. It’s quite the artist, it’s imagery taking me to places I don’t want to visit.

Maybe it’s the years of subtle yet consistent programming which is responsible for the negative twist the mind likes to put on things. How we look at things is far more habitual than we realize. We don’t even notice. How often do we think about what we are thinking about and why we are thinking the way that we are?

As I’ve gotten deeper into my mindfulness practice I’ve learned a great deal about self awareness. I’m better able to step outside of me and listen to what is going on within me, without beating myself up if I didn’t like what I was hearing. It’s through this self awareness that I’ve been able to pick up any consistent patterns of thoughts, including the negative ones.

Only when you know what those patterns of thoughts are can you ever hope to change them, especially when those thought patterns are working against you.

I can’t seem to stop these thoughts completely. Maybe I never will. They appear much less frequent than they once were. But what I do get to decide is if these thoughts are valid concerns or just my mind doing what I’ve spent most of my life training it to do. I’m fully aware that those thoughts are there, but I don’t have to actually believe them.

The most important decision I make each day is deciding what kind of day I’m going to have. Do I listen to the fear, or do I pivot towards the thoughts which empower me and move me closer to the day I really want my day to be? It’s a choice, but only if you allow yourself to see it as such. 

Unchallenged, the dominant thought will always win. 

What about you? Do you ever just sit still for a moment and listen to the thoughts in your head? What are you saying about yourself to yourself? Are those thoughts consistent with how you want your days to be? With how you want your life to be?

Habits of thought can be difficult to change, but they can be changed.

First, you just need to know what to change.

The Art Of Working Against Yourself

The Art Of Working Against Yourself

Maggie and Watson never like to stay in the yard. Our two strong and high energy dogs love to run free chasing whatever they are chasing. Sometimes they are just running for the sake of running. In our fenceless neighborhood, the dogs have no idea where our yard ends and the neighbor’s yard begins. They see no limits or boundaries. They just run.

Recently, we looked into installing an invisible fence, for their protection and our neighbor’s peace of mind. The technology is quite impressive. We define the parameters of where the dogs are free to run, and to condition them where their boundaries are a small device on their collars emits an uncomfortable charge as they get closer to the limits of their space. In time, the conditioning helps Maggie & Watson know their limitations almost instinctively. They’ll know how far they can go.

Kind of like us humans.

And we don’t even need a collar.

The greatest thing standing between where we are and where we want to be in life are the limitations we set for ourselves. The limitations we’ve conditioned ourselves to accept as true. Through the course of our lives we’ve set our own boundaries for how much we are willing to allow to be possible for us. Much like that invisible fence prevents the dogs from running free, our thoughts, both consciously and unconsciously, tend to keep us in our own yard, a fixed space that keeps us exactly where we are.

Understanding your limitations often requires you to look at your life from a different perspective. I never knew I had limitations, simply because I never thought I had anything to do with why my life wasn’t where I had wanted it to be. Blame is far easier than acceptance. How could I be undermining my own growth and evolution? Why would I do that to myself? Yet when I was able to step back and observe and listen to the stories I was telling myself, I could actually see how I had unintentionally constructed my own invisible fence of limitation.

Those stories of lack and shortage and unworthiness become hard wired into our emotional DNA every time we speak them to ourselves. And like the invisible fence, our thoughts train us as to where we will allow ourselves to go in life. We may see exactly where we want to be yet we’ll never let ourselves get there. All because of the limiting stories we repeatedly and often unconsciously tell ourself.

I’ve felt the inner conflict between what I told myself I wanted and what I was willing to allow myself to receive. The same mind which could envision the future of my dreams was the same mind working to convince me I would never attain it. I knew what I wanted for me but I would always find ways to make sure it never materialized. Until I started listening I had no idea this limiting and conflicting dialog was actually taking place.

Recognizing this conflict was my starting point in changing the stories I was telling myself. Our subconscious doesn’t care what we think about who we are. It just reinforces what we tell it and always finds ways for us to remain exactly where we’ve told ourselves we belong, even if we don’t want to be there. Abundance or lack. Worthy or unworthy. Your story is your story and you’ll never out run it or out work it.

The good news is we can always change the stories we tell ourselves.

So, what about you? What are some of the stories you tell you about you? Do you see yourself worthy to receive the unlimited abundance which is all around you? Or does life feel stuck and you’ve accepted that what is will always be?

Listen to those voices in your head. Step outside of you and just listen to what you say to yourself, especially when life gets challenging. Self awareness is the critical first step in understanding where you actually are in your life, and once you understand where you are it’s much easier to get to where you really want to go.

If you want a different life you need to tell yourself the stories that will make such a life possible.

And it’s possible.

It’s a great day to be you!

Waiting For The Beautiful To Become Beautiful

Waiting For The Beautiful To Become Beautiful

“They’re gonna be so beautiful when they bloom!”

This was overheard at a local nature preserve known, in part, for their large daffodil field, home to thousands of bulbs getting ready to share their gift. Visiting the field has become an annual tradition for a great many.

You could feel the anticipation in their voices as the daffodils were just days away from fully blooming and offering their vibrant color to the world. A few thoughts came to me in that moment:

Weren’t the daffodils already beautiful? Right now? As they already are? Like, at what point does something – or someone – become beautiful?

Ours is a results-oriented culture with a track record of celebrating successful outcomes. We usually don’t get too excited about the process. What we accept as beauty is greatly influenced by expectations and contingencies and once those conditions are satisfied we then feel free to affix the “beautiful” label. The daffodils, so close to fully blooming, apparently had not met their conditions for being beautiful just yet.

From a human standpoint, can we only see others and ourselves as beautiful when they/we are done growing? Can we find beauty in our incompleteness, in our unfolding, just as much as we do when we have finally blossomed and become?

For many we don’t allow our unfinished self to be beautiful. We “rationalize” that the process can’t be beautiful, only the result. As if beautiful is some sort of destination. But as humans we are never done blossoming, never done growing, are we? Because as humans, our unlimited potential for growth and expansion in an equally unlimited and expansive universe will never allow us to ever be complete, or done, or fully expressed. If we are waiting for the finality of our expansion before we can acknowledge our own beauty we will be waiting an entire lifetime before we do so.

And that would be such a shame.

Because beautiful is something we already are.

Exactly where we are, right now.

In our infinite incompleteness.

In our never-ending unfolding.

It’s a great day to be you!

Maybe Your Life Already Is Something To Get Excited About?

Maybe Your Life Already Is Something To Get Excited About?

“Look, Dad. That’s Orion’s belt. See? Those three stars in a row. Do you see it?”

That was part of an unexpected exchange I had this week with my daughter in the driveway, her little finger pointing to where she wanted my eyes to go. We just came home from her dance class. Cold nights usually mean a clear sky, and on this night you could see to infinity and beyond.

As we got out of the car she threw her head back to find a sky full of stars. And for the next 15 minutes, despite the bitter cold, we scanned the night sky and found as many constellations as we could name.

“Isn’t this cool?” she asked, her voice filled with both awe and wonder.

One of the great things about having a younger child in the house is that they often remind you of things, things you used to simply always do before the whole adult thing showed up in your life and changed your focus. At some point life morphs into a pursuit, a race of attainment and the pressures and stress which come along with it. Instead of taking time to look up and enjoy, we put our heads down and push and kick and fight forward, looking for an ever-elusive happiness in the material things and the status which we feel will come along with them.

I remember awe and wonder. I remember when I wasn’t looking past what I was hoping to find, when I wasn’t so consumed by the future, so often at the expense of the awe and wonder of the present.

I can’t help but contemplate how much awe and wonder am I missing in other areas of my life? Do I see it in the people in my life, the opportunities I have, the physical world around me? Or even life itself? Am I too busy living that I am not really fully alive?

Look up. Look around. Look inside.

Awe and wonder are everywhere.

We just need to take the time to see it.

It’s a great day to be you!