1. Try to look at everything as if it’s the first time.
Imagine waking up in a new city. The sun is shining through the sheer curtains in your room. You’re tucked under the covers in a total state of relaxation and your eyes are slowly opening to greet the day. You feel rested. You look around the room and take in all the unfamiliar sites – the colorful artwork on the walls, the wood furniture, your toes peeking out from underneath cozy white linens. Your first thought is of — how good a cup of coffee would be right now. But then you ponder what new things you might see and do today and who you might meet. Waking up in a new town gives us an invigorating sense of freedom. But, imagine if you looked at your own bedroom and hometown with that same fresh set of eyes everyday. It’s possible. Not easy, but definitely possible.
I’m made aware of living in the moment when I see people experience things for the first time, such as the little kid that reminded me what it’s like to fly for the first time.
We are creatures of habit and easily fall into routines that have us going through the motions of life in an unawake state. We’re stuck in our head, typically repeating the same phrases over and over, “don’t forget the such-and-such, I’ve gotta do this and that today.” But when you’re experiencing something for the umpteenth time, how do you make it feel new again? Being “in the moment” is a phrase that’s overused, so I’m not going to suggest it. Instead, try to be grateful for everything. Don’t take anything for granted. And, most importantly, try to experience everything will all five senses.
Here’s an exercise to try: What does your morning coffee or tea smell like? How would you describe the color of it? What kind of cup is it in? How does it feel under your fingertips? Can you feel the steam warm your face when you breathe in the scent of it? What does it taste like?
See, once you change your focus from your incessant thoughts to gratitude and sensing things, you’ll get drawn right into the moment.
“The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson
2. Continually strive to learn new things.
When was the last time you took a class for something? And I don’t mean taking the next continuing education requirement for your job or some skill set that’s going to advance your career — I mean something that is completely and totally new. Learning new things pushes us outside of our comfort zone. It challenges us. It also helps us to become completely absorbed in the moment (nod to lesson #1 here) and gives our mind a break from the daily grind. It stills our thoughts and sparks creativity.
While in Hawaii, I spent a day at the Ka’upulehu Cultural Center and had a ukulele lesson. Now, admittedly, I couldn’t strum a tune after that single lesson. How could I after just one try? What I remember most is how I felt that day, as if time ceased to exit. Perhaps it was the mix of listening to local music along with learning about their language and it’s spiritual connection to the land, but I felt grounded and at peace like I had had a spiritual experience.
When I got home, I ordered a new Ukule online and practiced everyday for a month. Each time I practiced, it felt like a form of meditation. There was no competition, no judgement, no striving to get ahead, and no pressure to be perfect. When ever I made a few sounds that sounded like music, my heart swelled with joy and a sense of accomplishment. I had learned to do something new. Now, I confess, I’ve been picking up that ukulele a lot less this year than I’d like to. I can only play one song. But the point here is to learn something for the sake of learning it. Not perfecting it. Not creating new goals. But just getting absorbed by a new subject that is unrelated to anything else in your life.
“No matter how one may think himself accomplished, when he sets out to learn a new language, science, or the bicycle, he has entered a new realm as truly as if he were a child newly born into the world.” ~Frances Willard
3. Don’t wish you were somewhere else, be happy right now where ever you are.
This is probably the biggest lesson I can share. So many times, when I tell people what I do for a living, I hear “I’d love to go to (fill in the blank with your bucket list destination here).” And while I encourage everyone to travel, I also urge people to be happy where they are now, where ever that may be in the world.
I can assure you that as much as you might long to be sitting on the coast in the Mediterranean, sipping a glass of wine … there is a someone sipping a glass of wine and watching the sunset on the Mediterranean wishing they were in your shoes. Everywhere I’ve been I meet people who take for granted where they live and what they do while I sit in admiration for the simplicity in their life, the stories they have to share, and the scenery surrounding us. While you might dream of different jobs, new houses, and far off destinations, don’t allow it to cloud your happiness today.
“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” ~Colette