Mindfulness 101: Live in the Present Moment

Learn how living in the present moment can relieve stress, improve health and promote feelings of contentment.

| November/December 2014

  • Mindfulness can relieve stress and improve health in myriad ways.
    Photo by iStock
  • Practice mindfulness by becoming fully aware of every sensation while performing a mundane activity such as sipping a cup of tea.
    Photo by iStock
  • Seated meditation involves focus on the breath, a surefire means of being present.
    Photo by Getty Images
  • Mindful movement exercises are often based in yoga, tai chi or qigong.
    Photo by Getty Images

What do you love doing? According to surveys, some of Americans’ favorite hobbies include fishing, gardening, traveling, sewing, playing music and crafts. Why do we enjoy these activities? They all tend to draw us into the present moment. They employ our senses and clear our heads. They make us feel engaged, alert and vital.

What if we could bring that wide-eyed awareness to even the most mundane activity? What if we could spend more of our lives fully engaged?

My Aha Moment

Many great thinkers have explored that idea. Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately…and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Of course, Thoreau wasn’t the first to aim to “live deliberately.” Mindfulness as a meditative practice originated in Buddhism about 2,500 years ago. It’s about maintaining awareness of the present moment, with purpose and without judgment. For years, I’ve grasped the working definition, written about the many research-backed benefits, and heard yoga teachers expound on the topic.



Yet I hadn’t quite appreciated the value of mindfulness until last fall, when I received a dire medical diagnosis. Niggling concerns about the past suddenly seemed petty and irrelevant. Many future-based preoccupations—promoting books, planning lectures, replacing the carpets, expanding my Twitter following—fell away.

What mattered was each precious moment. Anxiety, grief and outright terror hovered, ready to swoop in. The remedy was pulling myself back to the present. I’d gaze at the crimson and gold autumn leaves, stroke my puppy’s soft fur, smell the bouquet a friend had delivered, taste my daughter’s soup, paint with my son, relax at the touch of my husband’s warm hand on my back. Every moment held beauty and love. If I stayed in the present, I felt grateful and peaceful.






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