With the arrival of summer, many of us are thinking about our vacations. We change our location and our activities, but no matter where we go, we take time with us. In other words, although we do take a vacation from routine, we can't take a vacation from time.
The good news is that we can do a better job of feeling like we're on vacation even when we're not, simply by altering our perception of time. The matter boils down to living in the present.
Diverse practitioners of meditation emphasize that we do best to experience "the moment" as fully as possible. But this is a difficult goal to attain. Our minds often rush into the future or, on the contrary, hurl us back into the past.
Almost from the beginning of our lives--except for infancy, if we're lucky enough to be born to parents/caretakers attuned to our basic needs-- we grow up adjusting to the schedules of our families, the school day, and ultimately, the workweek.
We certainly don't learn to be in our own moment--in sync with our minds and bodies. Although this accomplishment sounds self-evident or basic, to be with one's inner or true self is complex. It involves breaking out of everyday routine to master a lesson that extends beyond the common curriculum.
Even more worrisome is the fact that we may not be aware that we're missing something; that is, a sense of serenity, feeling all is well within us and our world.
Dogs help us live in the present. My dog, Woolf, baulks and plops down on the pavement when I urge him to pick up the pace so we can circle the block according to my schedule. Then he glances up at me as if to say, "What's the matter with you? Why the hurry? We'll do better if we slow down."
Young children also naturally live in the moment and may resist our efforts to pry them from it. If we enter this child's world paradoxically, by extension, he may help us experience the present.
Dwelling in the past and future can work against us. For example, a person may deprive himself of a pet because he has experienced the loss of one in the past. Imagining the inevitable demise of another pet can deprive him of an animal's company in the present.
In the practice of meditation we learn that the process of breathing grounds us in the body. Although our minds tend to disorder and disobedience, our breath follows the pattern of inhalation and exhalation. Focusing on the "in" and "out" reminds us to slow down. (If I can't focus on slow breathing, I employ the rapid in's and out's of belly breathing, a pattern that resembles the panting of an over-heated dog.)
Conclusion: Focusing on breathing helps us live in the moment, and can seem like a mini-vacation from the routine.