just this

What if I told you there was one thing that you could do that would make the challenges in your life easier to bear, while also allowing you to extract more joy from each moment?

Would you try it?

Considering the potential benefits, might you even commit yourself to practicing it once in a while —much like you might have once rehearsed the clarinet or your tennis swing or whatever that thing is that makes you good at your job?

And, what if you learned that that thing was always at your fingertips and that you didn’t need to spend a million bucks on it, or haul around special equipment, or get a degree, or change anything in particular about yourself or your circumstances in order to take advantage of it?

Have I got your attention? Perhaps it sounds too good to be true? Surely, it can’t be that easy?

Well, honestly…it may not always be easy, but it is that simple.

The answer is: just this.

we make it harder

Before we unravel that a bit more, let’s examine our default approach to difficulty. Oftentimes when we encounter a challenge in our lives, whether it be acute loss or pain, shame or failure, or the ongoing frustration of an irritating boss, we don’t just focus on that particular circumstance.

Instead, we bring all our “baggage” along with us and throw that into the mix. You’ve heard the term “baggage” right? As in, “He’s carrying around some serious baggage about that issue.”

Well, baggage doesn't really capture it. That implies we’re talking about a little carry-on sized suitcase that we bring everywhere. Oh no. It’s as if we each have a massive warehouse in our subconscious crammed full of tractor trailers, each of which are packed to the gills with boxes and boxes and boxes of the thoughts, sensations, and emotions we’ve experienced throughout our lives.

So when something with a similar emotional quality happens today, a call goes out and one of those big suckers gets unloaded. So that not only are we dealing with whatever is happening in this moment—we’re wading through and reacting to all of times we had to do something like it before. It’s not pretty.

We overwhelm ourselves with the past and make it harder to be in the present. So, when your boss says something condescending to you at your Monday morning meeting, not only do you react to that statement, but you do so standing on top of a mountain of boxes full of all the other comments from before. This moment in your mind and body, becomes all moments.

And in that way, today’s failure carries the weight of all of your failures from yesterday.

and harder still

And if that weren’t enough, we also tend to erect a portable drive-in movie screen where we can project a thousand other scenarios in which we might suffer or experience hardship in the future. So, on top of whatever pain we’re experiencing in the moment, we haul around all of our difficulties from the past, and then manufacture imagined challenges that will certainly befall us down the road.

No wonder we suffer.

When you lose someone close to you it is natural to feel waves of grief and heartache. But we can make each of those moments of grief more painful if we also imagine the pain we will feel in every moment in the years to come. We don’t need to live for the rest of our lives without someone, we really just need to live without them for this moment. And then the next. And the next.

And, one moment at a time is usually bearable.

If you have an unpleasant appointment or procedure on your calendar for this afternoon or next week or ten years from now, you don’t need to live through it a bazillion times before it happens. It’s enough to be with it when it gets here, and until then be fully with whatever is occurring in this moment.

If we can let go of the past and the future, the thing we have to deal with may seem much more manageable. So remember, to bring all of your attention and focus to: just this.

we miss the point

Another reason to bring ourselves more fully to THIS moment, is because this is also the only opportunity we have to experience any real joy—even in the midst of hardship. In a moment of loss, you might become aware that in addition to your grief you also have a strong social network and dear friends that will support you. Or that you are physically healthy. Or that the sunrise is still beautiful and the birds are still singing.

If we’re in this moment assuming or hoping we’ll be happier at some later time, then we might miss the small pleasures that can enrich our experience and lighten our hearts right now. The majority of our lives are not big monumental experiences anyhow, they’re mostly millions and millions of little things strung together over a lifetime.

And, if we commit ourselves fully to each of those little things as they are happening, then we can learn to derive pleasure from what might typically be thought of as unimportant or ordinary or inconsequential.

So…practice that one thing that will help make the challenges in your life easier to bear, while also allowing you to extract more joy from each moment…just this.

Just this.

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