3: stay [LISTEN]

How did you stay in the moment this year?

Ok so I actually had to Google what “staying in the moment” means because although it’s a phrase I hear around a lot, I kind of dismissed it as positivity mumbo-jumbo that admittedly sounds pretty.

This is the best explanation I could find, because it doesn’t simply toss the phrase out like some self-evident truth but actually explains why it might benefit you.

I am not sure I entirely buy why staying in the moment is important for everybody, because what if your moment is really shitty? Like what if you’re living in a famine? Should you be cherishing that moment when you’re faint from hunger? (It is possible to cherish hunger; I have done this while trying to lose weight, tipped off by Oprah, but people living in starvation conditions can be forgiven for abstaining from not cherishing their involuntary hunger). Though, I guess, it could be applied to when one is eating, so you really relish your food, however little, and don’t start worrying where the next meal is coming from. Hmmm.

Okay, so I get it (particularly as most of us don’t live in famine conditions). I think it’s the corollary that most often attaches itself to “stay in the moment”, which is “live for today” that I don’t agree with. It’s just not practical. One could take days off from planning for the future but one can’t entirely live in bubble-today-land.

That off my chest, it will not surprise you that I am not excellent at staying in the moment. My way of being is to live in la-la land, constantly wandering off into mental ruminations. Nor do I want to change that, frankly. I’ve thought about it but I quite like reading while I’m eating. It actually makes me eat a little slower.

A bigger issue, though, and one that I am not sure will be solved by staying in the moment is that for a large portion of the past six years, I’ve felt like I’ve been in limbo. It started when I moved to Hyderabad and I found that I hated living there, but I had committed to an MA programme and I’m one of those stick-it-out types. One might say I was not committed to living in Hyderabad, but, in fact, I had been quite optimistic (rare for me) about the whole thing, and I do believe I gave it my best shot and it really didn’t work for me. I was happiest when I escaped to Bombay or Bangalore when I could.

Then I moved to Hong Kong and I really liked it. It appears that many people didn’t get this impression, and I admit some part of me did cling to Bombay, particularly my friends there. I have this theory that one has to be committed to the place one is in and have a proper friends circle in that place, and I’m slowly coming to the realization that in the modern world it might be normal for it not to be quite so clear cut. But regardless of the ties to Bombay, I was happy. And so while strictly not in the moment (spatially at least), I was happy, and isn’t that what this is about? Gradually, I committed to Hong Kong and rooted here, so even that was resolved.

But unfortunately, just a couple of years after that, talk of moving to India surfaced and now I find myself in limbo again. It is hard to stay in the moment when your family is frantically planning for the future, a future you’re not convinced you want. One might argue that it is exactly at this time that one needs to stay in the moment but the thing is, planning a move requires, well, planning. Even as a reluctant participant, I can’t be so irresponsible as to say, I’m going to pretend this doesn’t exist. Although I have chosen the ostrich approach on this issue a lot, decisions do come up to be made and they have to be made envisioning a future. In this instance, I really wish I could stay in the moment, and I find it problematic that the situation demands that I pay less attention to the present.

I am aware that this post, which is supposed to be about staying in the moment, has turned into a list of reasons I don’t. However, at the micro-level, I think I’m pretty good at staying in the moment. Like, another allied idea to staying in the moment, is thankfulness. One day, V mused that we have so much and are not thankful. The thing is, though, I am.

I count my blessings a lot. I cherish them and don’t take them for granted. My lovely children (who I find cute even when they puke or cry or fight), my amazing husband (who I appreciate even through the miasma of irritations that have surrounded us, and I have told him so to his great surprise), my wonderful helpers (their competence, warmth, laughter, generosity), my job (which has slowed down and is back to being manageable), my nice co-workers, the many luxuries I can enjoy, the efficiency of the MTR, the beauty of the weather, the yumminess of the burger I plan to eat at lunch, my polka dots on my new phone case, my phone itself, the wonder of the internet, the library at my disposal, never having had backache, I could go on and on. And this is not the first time I am thinking of this. Every day is filled with little utterances of wonder and thanks.

If I had to pick one thing that I have consciously stayed in the moment on and tried to freeze time in, it’s during time with my kids. Sometimes V points out that I am checking my phone when I am with them. But I think that’s ok. I spend plenty of time where I am fully and completely there, participating in whatever little adventure they are on, cherishing the silliness. I take more photos of my kids now that I have a phone with a better camera, but I still take relatively few. I realised this when I downloaded the photos of Benji’s birthday. What I have though is non-photographed moments, included the feeling, of just watching them live and then joining in that living with them.

Nevertheless, I am going to experiment with staying in the moment as a meditative technique, and choose one activity when I just focus on what I’m doing. Like brushing my teeth. Which, lately, is time that has been coopted by letting my kids into the loo with me, where they fiddle with my little pots of cream. Or maybe I’ll just club this one with doing pranayam. That counts as a staying in the moment thingie right?