“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault
After realizing that the past seven months of my life seemed to have flown by, I knew it was time for me to focus on slowing things down.
In real-time, I’m sitting in a coffee shop overlooking the city of Cusco, Peru, wondering if my experiment in slowing down was a little drastic. I decided to take a month long break in Peru to do yoga and deepen my spiritual practice.
But something interesting happened. After being so excited for this trip, I landed in South America and immediately wanted to go home. I landed, saw the mountains from the plane and then my mind decided it was time to pack up and head back to my comfortable routines and fleeting moments of actually being present in my life.
Finding Joy and Connection In-between Life’s “Big Moments”
“Living in the moment isn’t that important”, I tried to reason with myself.
But those initial feelings really revealed to me the importance of this trip. I’ve been addicted to busy. Addicted to a fast paced life, as if busy somehow meant I was being productive. All busy really meant for me was that I didn’t have to actually show up for my life.
I was certain my complete happiness was beautifully wrapped up in the future moment I finally finish my big writing project. Amongst all this future trippin’, I noticed my meditation practice slip to the back burner and watched as I took less and less time for my spiritual practice.
Deep down, I knew I needed this break in Peru no matter how hard it was going to be for me to slow down. I needed a drastic change. I needed to be away from everything and everyone I knew so I could clear my mind of expectations and really hear my Inner Guidance.
I think a lot of us spend most of our time focusing on the next big thing; going from one accomplishment to the next, without ever slowing down enough to feel the joy and satisfaction in achievement. We’re always hungry for more, and laser-focused on getting it sometime in the future.
What I’ve recently remembered in Peru is that joy and satisfaction is not “out there”. It’s not found in an accomplishment or another person. Joy is something you must choose to feel, and we can only make that choice when we are fully here. Fully in that often elusive and vulnerable present moment.
As I’ve been practicing slowing down and coming back to the present moment, I’ve had a major shift in perception about all the things I thought I wanted in life.
While reflecting on my past travel experiences and some of my most joyful memories, I realized that they were not the “big moments” and those big accomplishments I put most of my energy into.
The moments I felt most alive were all in-between the big ones that I thought would bring me the most satisfaction. It’s in those “small” moments that tend to have the greatest impact on me. So I guess those small moments really aren’t that small after all.
In fact, maybe if we can practice being present for the in-between moments, rather than focusing so much on future achievements, we can feel what we hope to feel in the future, right now.
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” ~ Thích Nhất Hạnh,
Putting this idea to practice revealed to me one of the most beautiful experiences just walking down the cobble streets in Peru the other day.
I rounded the corner armed with my fast paced New York City walk on my way to a coffee shop to do some writing when I saw a little boy standing on the sidewalk crying. I could immediately sense he was really upset about something.
I watched as another little boy ran up to him, and instead of making the situation worse with cry-baby taunts, the boy just gave him a hug. He held the crying boy, letting him bury his face in his arms.
Then another little boy came up and joined the hug in the middle of the sidewalk. The three of them just stood there holding each other for several minutes while the boy cried. At this point, I was almost crying too.
What I witnessed was a beautiful display of vulnerability, compassion and love.
That instant in the street captivated me. I was fully there. And the moment occurred during the in-between. I was on my way from one event of the day to the next. Out of all my days in Peru so far, that moment has been one of my most cherished experiences.
Even though it may be hard to slow down at first, all the joy and connection we deeply crave can only be experienced in the present moment. And this is a practice. Ways I practice slowing down are yoga, becoming aware of my breath, putting down the cell phone at the dinner table, noticing the sensations in my body and the sounds and smells around me.
Are there moments I trail off into the future or the past? Of course. But like I said, this is a practice. Being fully present and engaged with the experiences and people around me is oh-so satisfying, and thankfully, experiencing that has nothing to do with achieving something in the future. Being fully present in your life equals being fully alive.
“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” ~ Jim Rohn
What puts a smile on your smile, what makes you happy? Have you learned to appreciate and enjoy life’s simple pleasures? Share your insights by joining the conversation in the comment section bellow.