I get particularly annoyed when I hear people tell others to "live in the moment" as a kind of criticism. The implication is that if you are not feeling positive all the time, you are somehow not spiritual enough.
This is a very limited view of the moment. It's positively lopsided, because the moment includes everything that is happening now. The moment is simply what it is—not what you want it to be. If some of what is happening in the moment appears to be negative, or terribly sad...well, that is what's happening.
If you try to hide from what is happening, then you are not in this moment...you are shrinking from it. If you try to live in a bubble of positivity or "peacefulness," then you have to work very hard to keep the sharp pricks of pain away. You have to work hard to avoid things or people that might burst that bubble.
This avoidance is much more stressful than the alternative—simply accepting what is happening, even if you don't like it. Avoiding what is happening doesn't give you a very secure kind of peacefulness. Running around all the time and being afraid that other people's problems will get you down just isn't very peaceful.
When you are truly in the moment, you experience a peacefulness that can embrace the whole range of experience. No longer preoccupied with how you want life to be, or even who you are, you settle into an acceptance of what is. You are not pulling or pushing at this moment, and you are not trying to make it different than it is. This peacefulness can embrace problems when they appear, because they are part of this moment too.
If you're wondering how "in the moment" you are, just do this quick self-check: Notice how open your heart is. When your heart is open, you are able to embrace whatever is happening. This doesn't mean you have to like what is happening—it just means you are not closing yourself off from what is happening. You aren't separating from what is happening, and you are certainly not recoiling from it.
When your heart is open, whatever is happening right now touches you, because it is a part of you, and you are a part of it. That's not to say you are overwhelmed by it. It's just that you are able to be with it, because denying it would be denying you. From your place of peacefulness, you might even be able to lend a helping hand.
If you really want to transform stress, your heart is the engine of that transformation. A soft, open heart does not resist the awareness of suffering. It offers every single thing in the universe a loving home.
Today, before you meditate, take a moment to open your heart to the world. Your heart is big enough to embrace whatever is happening now.
Martin Boroson is a playful, practical new voice in the next wave of meditation teachers. Author of One-Moment Meditation: Stillness for People on the Go, he lectures on the benefits of a meditative mind for decision-making and leadership. Marty studied philosophy at Yale, earned an MBA from the Yale School of Management and is a formal student of Zen. Visit his website for One-Moment Meditation® help and resources, tweet him at @takeamoment or find him on Facebook.
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