“I am compelled by some deep hunger of the soul, driven by a desire that will not leave me alone, to live life to the fullest. And I know this does not mean working endlessly, accomplishing the most, or consuming the greatest amount and variety of things and experiences. It means tasting each mouthful, feeling each breath, listening to each song, being awake and aware of each moment as it unfolds.” – Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Sitting on a cliff overlooking the ocean shimmering in the night sky, I look above and all I see are stars. Their tiny glowing orbs pulling me in, casting a spell over me with their ethereal light. I am filled with a silent reverence. Inspired by their ancient, luminous presence, I become completely absorbed in the moment, past and future fading away.
This moment is all there is, and will ever be.
I’ve found happiness living in the moment, but things were not always this peachy keen. Last year, I was living in an illusion, a dream of time past and the promise of a better future. I buried my head in the sand, carrying out all of my hollow daily tasks. My life became a soul crushing routine of Get up, Go to work, Come home, Watch TV, Go to bed. I made every effort to ignore the present moment and become completely oblivious to my surroundings. I thought, “If I can just make it to next year, this will all be worth it.” I would start to daydream about my Round the World trip and where I wanted to go; back home to Oregon, then on to the Northern Lights in Iceland and through the Trans-Siberian Railway. Then my alarm would go off, and I would find myself pushing aside my dreams going back to my monotonous routine like an emotionless zombie.
I craved the road once more, the only place where I felt alive.
Before, traveling was the only thing that made me feel like ME. Throwing caution to the wind, buying a one way ticket to Nowhere – these were things that forced me to live in the moment and made me feel alive. I was an adrenaline junkie, but like all addicts, once the fix was over I craved more. Nothing seemed to fill the void within longer than a few precious moments. Not even traveling.
I was depressed and lost, searching for inner peace with illusory forms of happiness.
I started saving less and less for my Round the World trip and spending more and more on material possessions in an attempt to fill the void within. The dream of traveling Round the World became a silly fantasy. Every time I drowned myself in the bottom of a bottle or bought a shiny new toy, my depression grew deeper. I lost myself in every customer complaint, every week of working 40+ hours without any time to think or get inspired. To feel what I was really going through on a deeper level. I just ignored my emotions and filled my head with thoughts of memories past.
When I wasn’t absorbed in the nostalgic memories of my past glory days traveling solo in Cambodia or scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef, I sought comfort in the promise of a brighter future. The “I’ll be happy when” syndrome became my personal mantra and daily devotion. I thought to myself, “I’ll be happy when I finally pay off my student loans, when I save enough money to travel again, when I finally leave on my Round the World trip”…and on and on. Excuse after excuse to live anywhere but the present moment piled up so high that I stopped feeling my true emotions. I buried them instead, along with all of my hopes and aspirations. I no longer recognised the girl I saw staring back at me in the mirror. I became like a ghost, living in the past or pining for the future. Anything but facing the Now.
Then it hit me, I needed to change or lose myself entirely.
If I continued suppressing my inner emotions, I was eventually going to drown in them. I had to face up to my inner demons and fast. I was like a sinking ship, and the only form of respite was by reverting to a level of consciousness below thought. Drugs, sex, money, alcohol, TV, not even traveling would heal me from what was the root of all my problems; I needed to find inner happiness. I could no longer delude myself anymore with these illusory forms of pleasure, I needed to find the joy within.
It happened one night in Bali. I awoke to a flash of white lightning and a violent sound so loud that it shook me to the core. Scared, I tried to turn on the light but the power was out on the whole island. I didn’t know if the lightning was real, or if it was part of a dream. So I laid there, in the dark, completely terrified for what seemed like hours, but in reality was only a few minutes. Then I cried…and I cried and I cried.
“When you dance, you stir up all of that shit that’s been sitting there like waves stirring up the sand on the ocean floor.” My Balinese dance instructor warned, “When you dance, you awaken your mind, becoming in tune with your body and bringing out emotions you didn’t even know were there.”
The day before I had signed up for a simple Balinese class, hoping to find the magic I thought I had lost over the years. That inner joy I felt when I backpacked across Southeast Asia on my own, or stared up at the stars on top of an ancient volcano in Africa. Something about that powerful Balinese Earth dance shook me to the core and reconnected me to all of my emotions that I had been dumbing down and ignoring for years.
What I didn’t realize was that I had awakened out of the dream of time and into the present, and I found the inner joy that had always been a part of me.
My whole body shook, as my mind reeled with a fast-motion montage of my life, until I could no longer think. Suddenly, I was absorbed in the present moment. I felt every fibre of the blankets beneath me, the warm night air on my skin, the warmth of my lover sleeping next to me. I heard every breath I breathed, every leaf rustling in the wind outside my window, every gap of silence in between the sounds. I walked out onto the balcony outside and felt the cool wind on my cheeks. Looking up at the stars shining above me, I saw them in all of their brilliance as if it was the first time in my entire life. I felt their ancient light shining down on me, filling me to the brim with a sense of peace and inner stillness.
It was then that I realized the only person who could give me the happiness that I craved was me. The only thing that could give me joy was by living in the present moment.
That night I made a choice, to let go of the past and future and live consciously in the present. To free myself from time, and allow myself to live once more in the Now. So many of us live in a dream within a dream, ignoring the beauty of the present moment at hand. Let go. Realize that being a living, breathing human being is a beautiful thing. Feel the joy within that you have craved for as long as you can remember.
“Have you ever gazed up into the infinity of space on a clear night, awestruck by the absolute stillness and inconceivable vastness of it? Have you listened, truly listened, to the sound of a mountain stream in the forest? Or to the song of a blackbird at dusk on a quiet summer evening? To become aware of such things, the mind needs to be still. You have to put down for a moment your personal baggage or problems, of past and future, as well as your knowledge; otherwise you will see but not see, hear but not hear. Your total presence is required.” – Eckhart Tolle
How many of us see but don’t see, hear but don’t hear? Drowning our sorrows in illusory forms of pleasure instead of finding happiness within? Free yourself from your mind, reclaim consciousness and let your true inner essence shine through. True happiness can be found in each moment if we are willing to be present to it.
Take a step back from your computer screen and close your eyes. Listen to the silence that surrounds you. Breathe in, and listen to every noise and the gaps of silence in between. Listen to the silence and stillness within you. Feel your inner being derived from a place deeper and truer within yourself.
Open your eyes. Take a walk outside and look around you. Look at the trees. See every leaf. Feel the wind blowing through your hair. The warmth of the sun on your cheeks. The cold sand beneath your toes. Feel the power of this moment. Focus your attention on small things, like the feeling of the steering wheel beneath your hands when you are driving to work. Or the warm cup of coffee in your hands. Taste every drop, every sip. When you eat, eat. When you sleep, sleep. Let the present moment fill every part of your being.
To be alive is a profound and beautiful thing. Your true inner essence is already there, just waiting for you to discover it once more.
Let go and find the art of living in each and every moment.
For this moment is all there is, and will ever be.