"Seeking happiness outside ourselves is like waiting for sunshine in a cave facing north." This Tibetan saying is wisdom of the ages, essentially affirming that true happiness must come from within. And in order to find that sense of peace within yourself, you must try your best to live in the moment, every moment of the day.
Mastering the art of living in the moment takes practice and patience. Over a lifetime, you accumulate memories and experiences that can either propel you forward with joyful expectation or they can hold you back, preventing you from achieving genuine happiness. Having awareness of the fact that most of your thoughts are held captive in the past -- or anxiously awaiting the future -- is the first step to freedom.
Clearing away the illusions that cloud your ability to see what is real is the first step. It is not uncommon to think the answer to your problems lies outside of yourself. You imagine that, "If only (he or she) would do that for me...or give me what I need..." you would be happy.
The reality is that your expectations of others are a recipe for disappointment. The more you expect someone to do something -- the more you inevitably set yourself up for frustration. In other words, the expectation was only your own and had nothing to do with the other person's wishes or intent.
Once you master clearing away some of your illusions, cultivate more mindful awareness in your relationship with yourself and others by trying the following:
Get into the habit of putting five to 10 minutes aside each day to meditate. If an early morning practice is not practical, make time during the day. Try this five minute mindful meditation, or do a walking meditation outside during a break or at lunch. Make that appointment with yourself and don't miss it. Before you know it, you'll start to see the payoffs in terms of greater mental clarity, reduced stress, and an enhanced feeling of centeredness that can carry you through a hectic work day.
2. Mindful breathing
If you find yourself rushing to an appointment, use your time in transit to calm and center yourself. Do some deep breathing to quiet your mind, center your thoughts, and focus on what you need to accomplish next. It's easy to do and it works -- anytime and anywhere.
3. Exercise the senses.
Mindfully activate the five senses. For example, smell the coffee brewing, note the color of the light filling the building, the sounds of birds singing outside, or the laughter down the hall. Notice your thoughts. Tapping into your surroundings and emotions can help you focus and bring you back to the present moment. The trick is to not "attach" to every sound, thought or distraction -- notice what is in front of you without judgment -- then move on.
4. Less is more.
Simplify your life by paying more attention to the small things. This is bound to create more positive experiences in your life. What makes you smile? What do you enjoy doing the most? Figure out how to peel back on the activities that clutter your mind and create stress in your life.
5. Be compassionate -- to yourself.
Being kind to others goes without saying, but are you compassionate with yourself? When you live in the moment, you become more aware of self-limiting patterns. Beating yourself up never solves anything, nor will it improve your mood. Instead, treat yourself with the same kindness, love and support you would show to a good friend. Good things will follow.
6. Gratitude is the ultimate game-changer.
No doubt you have heard this advice before. When we live more consciously in the moment the natural by-product is gratitude. Expressing gratitude can change your life. Being sincere and authentically grateful for friends, family, employees or customers, our home and health, -- along with the "little stuff" keeps things in perspective. Take nothing for granted. When you practice gratitude, you are also building emotional resilience -- which enables you to handle adversity and stay in the moment.