Stop. Turn off your iPhone. Take your headphones out of your ears. Walk away from the television. Look around you. Look out your window at the crisp, colorful, changing leaves of fall. Watch the wind tousle the hair of a biker coming down your street. Better yet, step outdoors and feel the chilly wind prick your own skin. This is your life. Clear your mind and take in the present moment.
What would you say if I told you that you were changing the world by simply living in the “here and now?” You don’t have to travel across the world to change it. You don’t have to feel guilty about not joining the Peace Corps or dedicating your life to international missions. Instead, just be a happy person. If you can get right with yourself, your own happiness will spread to others. The general mindset of society today is to constantly look ahead – always moving, always improving. Does this really lead to happiness? Nobody is even guaranteed a “tomorrow.” In reality, the only thing anyone is guaranteed is the present moment, so why not enjoy it? At the very least, be aware of it. Do your part to help society create a healthy mindset.
It is only 10:30 in the morning. What have you thought about today so far? Your meeting at noon? Your weekend plans? The “to-do list” you made a week ago and haven’t even touched? Stop thinking about the future! Have you taken a moment to even stop and savor the coffee you paid five dollars for? Did you notice how pretty the morning sun looked as it peeked through your bedroom window?
This point of view also affects how we feel about the past. So many people are busy defining themselves by actions that have occurred in the past. It is easy to forget the simple concept that the past no longer exists. How will you ever realize the new, cute guy at work is flirting with you if you are constantly reminiscing about your psycho ex-boyfriend? You have to wake up to what is going on around you! Get out of your head and into reality.
Society has trained us to measure happiness by financial success. The world might be a little bit happier if we learned to appreciate the small stuff, perhaps in the way that children do. They are so easily amused, educated, and entertained. It would probably do everyone a little bit of good to think like a five-year-old at least once a day. This way, when you are mad because the business deal you wanted didn’t go through, you can still smile and say to yourself, “I am alive; therefore something good happened to me today.”
Americans are so quick to judge other cultures. We often assume that because people live in a less technologically advanced world, they must not be as happy. How can we really know, though? Everything is relative. Those who have never heard of the Internet or television don’t know what they are missing. They value the simple tools they do have and they value working hard. These individuals have to be constantly focused on their current situation in order to survive. They are aware. On the other hand, we now tend to be grumpy when we can’t instantly find out information. We have forgotten what it was like to wait for something.
Our society is incredibly overstimulated. With easy access to the Internet, music, television, and cell phones, many of us have forgotten what it’s like to be alone. We are in constant communication with someone who is not physically with us. Thus, we are unaware of our own surroundings. We are missing what is actually going on in our own life, right in front of us. If a person uses a cell phone to bring work with them everywhere they go, how can they “work” on their family life? It is all too easy to create relationships with “non-existent” beings like “work” or the “the past.” These twisted relationships prevent us from making real connections with the people who actually exist in our lives. We have to get ourselves out of this false reality created by technology and re-learn to communicate directly.
The general idea of living in and focusing on the moment and the “now” is more thoroughly explained by spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle. In his best-selling book, The Power of Now, he writes, “Whenever and wherever there is beauty, this inner essence shines through somehow. It only reveals itself to you when you are present.” His teachings are geared to those of all backgrounds and beliefs. For those interested in further pursuing the “present” within their lives, this book can serve as a very useful guide. One of the best points he makes during his teaching is that this is a slow process. In a sense we have to “undo” all of the wiring that society has programmed into our minds about how to view the world and measure happiness.
This concept of “living in the moment to change the world” may seem idealistic. But you should think of the idea in terms of the words of Lao Tzu: “The longest journey begins with a single step.” To truly change the world for the better, you have to have the right intentions. In order to have good intentions, you need to be sure of where you stand as a person. If you aren’t happy, how truly happy can you make others? Allow yourself some selfish time to observe the little world that surrounds your life. As you become more aware of the present, maybe you will begin to notice the little things you can do to make a difference. Maybe you have never noticed how unhappy your secretary looks everyday. Buy her lunch. Maybe you have ignored the stray cat that lives under your deck. Put out a plate of food. Little things add up, and it never hurts to have karma on your side.