“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
Ever noticed how absorbed in the moment you can get at the beach with all its sensory delights – the cool breeze on your cheek, crunchy sand behind your toes, the sound of the waves crashing, the sunlight sparkling off the white foam and rivulets being carved into the shores in intricate patterns as the tide goes out? Paying attention to your senses is a wonderful way to bring mindfulness into your life and show up for each moment.
One day I realised that wine tasting makes me happy, really really happy. I mean, generally I like wine and I like heading off on mini adventures with friends into the country, but something special happens to me at the cellar door. I hone in on the little glass in front of me, forget where I am and sometimes even try to avoid conversation (sorry friends). I realised that it makes me so happy because wine tasting invites you to progressively move through focussing on three sense – sight, smell and taste. It invites you to not just pay attention long enough to get an impression of what’s in front of us but to try to notice more deeply.
This paying attention and refining your senses are the basics of becoming more present. Presence is like sensing a moment in 3D instead of 2D, allowing us to go into each moment in greater and greater depth.
In our frenetic hyper-stimulated world, we are loosing our capability to be present, training ourselves in ‘attention deficit habit’. Our attention span is decreasing, down from 12 seconds in 2000 to just 8 seconds in 2013 (officially less than a goldfish, at 9 seconds), and we continually scan the environment instead of focussing deeply, waiting for something to distract us. This has very real implications for our ability to perform productive tasks, problem solve and maintain good relationships. Research also shows that being present makes you happy (even if you’re being present to a task you don’t enjoy is better than daydreaming about something you’d rather do). Focussing on one thing at a time also lowers stress.
Noticing the little things goes hand in hand with gratitude. Gratitude isn’t about the once-every-now-and-again big breaks; gratitude is about paying attention to the many things that positively contribute to your life and reflecting on the gifts they bring. The beauty of life lies in the small stuff that can so easily be taken for granted. Gratitude was one of the first things highlighted by positive psychology research as being important to our happiness. Brene Brown says that actively practicing gratitude is a precursor to being open to experience joy.
“Gratitude is not the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
So next time your doing something lovely and sensory like wine tasting, make an effort to go more deeply into the moment by focussing on one sense at a time and notice how that makes you feel. Use this capability when you need it most. I like applying it as walk through the garden as I get home from work to help shed distracting thoughts of what has happened or what will happen.
You can learn more about this at one of the upcoming ‘Wine Tasting for Living in the Now’ Workshops: Sunday November 30 at organic-practicing Peacetree Estate in Margaret River. Further workshops to be announced or available for groups on demand. Contact me to book or for more information.