I was taught by a dear friend of mine, Judy, the importance of living in the moment when I was going through breast cancer. I guess it had never occurred to me before then…
I was sitting with her in the sunshine on her porch and I had just been diagnosed and was feeling fairly traumatized by the notion that I had an unwanted “guest” in my body.
Judy was listening to my long litany of things I was worrying about – chief among them being “What if everything I do turns out not to be enough?” Judy gave me a gift that day, by saying “Well you can certainly go down that road and worry yourself endlessly. Or you can choose to just live in the moment. Appreciate the here and now as fully as you can.” That turned out to be life-changing advice, and I thank my friend Judy from the bottom of my heart for that beautiful lesson.
We Can Get Lost In the Past and Agonize About the Future
Being a human isn’t easy. Our brains, which are so marvelous at figuring out complex things, can also be the bane of our existence. We can listen to the tales our brain tells us – worrying endlessly about what happened at a party last week, what people will think, how big our credit card bill is – on and on and on.
Sometimes our brain gets fixated on the future, however, and if we are anxious or fearful about that, it can be paralyzing. The trick is not to let our mind control us, rather, to take hold of the mind and direct it where you WANT it to go.
The reason I believe that living in the moment is important when you’re going through breast cancer is because there are so many things about which to be anxious and fearful. Living in the moment truly strips that away and helps you to be more fully alive NOW (which is really all that matters – the here and now!)
My Favorite 9 Tips On Living In The Moment
- Release Your Self-Conscious Anxiety – If you can, release your worries about what people are thinking of you. Most people are so focused on themselves, they really are not thinking about you as much as you think they are. Who cares what they think anyway? It simply does not matter.
- Truly Savor The Present Moment – Be alive to it, use all of your senses. Really hear the song that is playing or what your child is telling you, totally immerse yourself in the beautiful colors of a sunset, truly feel your clothes touching your skin, taste that mouthful of food you just took – endeavor to identify exactly what you’re tasting. If you’re doing something you perceive as boring (like walking to the bus stop), treat it as a meditation and observe with new eyes each thing you see on the journey – a bird, another human (smile at them!), a squirrel rushing past. Your world is changing constantly – be alive to it.
- Be Very Mindful – All The Time! – This works especially well in your relationships with others and initially can be a little hard to do. But the more you practice it, the better you get at it. Simply put, it involves NOT reacting with anger in situations where you normally would. Take a moment and really think about what is being said, how it’s meant. The Buddhists call this recognizing the spark before the flame. In short you are inhabiting your own mind more fully, by not reacting and pausing a moment to think about things you are being fully present. When you do respond, do your best not to respond in anger but with thoughtfulness.
- Don’t Avoid Pain – By pushing away painful thoughts (or even physical pain) you are simply postponing dealing with it. By facing it fully, accepting it for what it is and then releasing it (whether via a talk with your psychotherapist or a massage or whatever you need to do) you bring yourself fully into this moment.
- Meditation Assists – Living in the moment gets easier with meditation because you are actively clearing thoughts from your mind (like the wind blows clouds from the sky) when you meditate and concentrating on an affirmation or your breath. When you notice your mind has wandered, simply bring it back to the present moment and your breath.
- Forgive What Has Happened In The Past – That old saying “To err is human, to forgive divine” has never been more true. When you forgive someone for a wrong you perceived they have committed, you free yourself from the past and this allows you to be more present now.
- Do One Thing At A Time – When you are multi-tasking (and I know you are… we’re all guilty!) you are quite unable to focus on any one thing and give it your full attention. Resist the urge to rush through it. Do it slowly, thoughtfully, mindfully, like it was the single most important thing you ever had to do. Try smiling while you’re doing it.
- Leave Blank Holes in Your “To Do” List – Resist the urge to schedule things really close together for 14 hours straight. Give yourself a little wiggle room to breathe, meditate, take a walk or simply sit and do nothing! We have become human DOINGS rather than human BEINGS. Just sit and “be”.
- Do Something Nice For Someone – Whether it’s for someone you love or a total stranger, nothing helps you to be more in the moment than to let someone know you care by doing something nice for them. Even just smiling at a stranger as you pass by could have an impact on their entire day. Hold a door open for someone, give up your seat on the bus to an older person, cook your spouse their favorite meal unexpectedly, tell someone how much they mean to you. It feels really good – to them and to you.
A final note: When I am stressing about something it’s almost always because I’m reaching too far into the future and feeling concerned about it. It helps to bring yourself back to “right now” by asking yourself “Am I okay right now?” If the answer is yes, then feel gratitude and stay with that feeling for as long as you can. Because right now is all we have. 90% of the things we worry about never happen.
If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook (MarnieClark.com). It is my honor to help you through this.