The Only Moment

Life is available only in the present moment.   Thich Nhat Hanh

Life is available only in the present moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Back in June, as my husband prepared to leave for the USA for two months to study, I fretted I’d miss him terribly and spend the summer in London by myself feeling lonely. But once I got used to his absence, I had a great time. I caught up with lots of friends, some of whom I’d not seen in years, went off to Germany for a couple of weeks of yoga training. And I relished having the flat to myself and also being able to eat exactly what I wanted. (Mark and I have rather different food tastes, what with him being a Northerner who thinks a meal isn’t complete without fish or meat and me being more inclined towards veggie food!)

The two months flew past. All too soon it was time for him to return. And I found myself fretting again. What would it be like no longer having all that space, that freedom, and having to cook meals we could both eat? Was our relationship really as strong as I thought it was, given I hadn’t missed him all that much? But the moment he walked back in, it felt perfect and completely right to have him there again.

I then realised that my not missing him wasn’t because there was anything wrong with our relationship. Rather, it was because during that period, I was able to lean into the present moment and absorb the goodness it offered. I also recognised how much time and energy many of us tend to waste anticipating what’s ahead. When the truth is we can neither know what the future holds, and I think we are actually far more adaptable to our circumstances than we believe ourselves to be.

Once again, as I prepare for a huge transition in my life, I confess to being a little scared. As well as of course excited. I have every faith this baby will bring much wonder and joy. But I’m also conscious of what I’ll have to let go of: luxuries such as a long daily yoga practice, uninterrupted sleep, the huge amount of freedom I’m used to. But my experience this summer keeps reminding me to do my best to embrace the present moment and these last precious (albeit not always comfortable!) days of pregnancy.

When we experience any significant kind of change, there are almost invariably both losses and gains. We always have a choice as to where we focus our attention. Do we align ourselves with what we enjoyed but no longer is, or with the sweetness of what is unfolding? Each cycle brings its own beauty (as well as its own challenges) and the important thing is to open our eyes to the beauty as much as we can (while of course learning from the challenges).

If we keep missing what is arising because we are so caught up with what once was, we risk missing our lives. For life is indeed only available in this moment.

The two practices I find most helpful in attuning to the goodness of the moment are meditation and gratitude. Meditation, of course, teaches us presence. There are so many ways to meditate that it’s not for me to go into them here, but my favourite book (with lots of practices in it) is Meditation for the Love of It, by my teacher, Sally Kempton. A gratitude practice teaches us to attune to the good, the beautiful. Every night before you go to bed, write down three things that happened for which you are grateful. They don’t have to be huge (though some days they might be). Perhaps it’s simply that tonight you have a warm bed to sleep in. It’s especially important to do this if you feel like you’ve had a really rubbish day!

On the subject of gratitude, thank you to all of you who read these letters, who come to my classes. It means a lot. I’ll write again soon, probably from the other side, but for now, I wish you a good rest of the autumn. Stay warm, stay present! And do stay in touch - it’s always lovely to hear back from you, especially now I won’t be seeing as much of you over the coming months!