So much of the talk about living in the present or making every moment a meditation can sound pretty glib to those whose present moment feels something like the U2 song, "Stuck In a Moment You Can't Get Out Of." What if the present moment is not a very nice place to be? What if you don't want to be here, now? What if you feel downright stuck and wish you could be anywhere but here?
In response to a recent post on this site, Linda asks, "Do you have advice on how to experience the gift of the moment when you really prefer not to be in it at all?"
For people who feel stuck in such a moment, I'm pretty guarded about giving advice. Companionship, empathy . . . yes. But advice will probably ring hollow to those whose present moment may be full of physical or emotional pain, despair, loss, fear, or debilitating mental distress.
I can say this much. I've known my share of moments I'd prefer not to have lived through. I'd have given just about anything to be anywhere but stuck in a moment I couldn't get out of. I also know that there was no getting through those moments in any other way than living through them. Wishing I could be anywhere else was natural, even understandable, but not very helpful. By wanting to be somewhere else I evacuated myself from the only place I could really be.
The only way through such moments is through them . . . as frightening as that may be.
Here are three practices I've learned from my own painful dwelling in such moments--ABCs for living in a moment you can't get out of:
1. Awareness. Take stock of yourself. Check in with your body, your blood pressure, signs of anxiety. Awareness is the gift of freedom from being hooked by a past you cannot fix and a future you cannot control. What you have is this moment. Like it or not, it's the only moment you've got.
2. Breathe. When we want to be elsewhere, your breath becomes shallow. Conscious breathing is the best way for you to move into awareness. Breathe. In and out. It's is a spiritual and bodily practice that can't help but pulls you back into this moment.
3. Compassion. Reach out to yourself as if you are a friend in need. You're apt to show others more compassion than you do yourself. Compassion requires awareness of your real situation and whispers to of grace, saying, "All shall be well."
For a helpful article by neurologist, Dr. Robert Scaer on trauma, see The Precarious Present: Why is it so hard to stay in the present? Especially the final section and it's practical suggestions.