Carpe Diem. You hear this advice everywhere. Live in the moment. Don’t worry about the future. Forget the past. I’ve always thought I understood this advice. It’s so simple at the surface, yet so hard to follow, at least for me anyway. A worrying mind worries. We unavoidably feel regret for mistakes we’ve made, for relationships we’ve tarnished. Yet only until recently have I learned the truth behind the advice to live in the moment. Living in the moment is about noticing.
Lately I’ve been struggling with certain regrets I have. I left Atlassian after 10 months, and I find myself worrying that certain people at the company are disappointed in my performance and decision to leave so early. I respond to such worry by reminding myself why I left in the first place — to pursue the dream I’ve had for as long as I can remember. But answering a thought with another–by justifying my worry–I’m taking myself out of the current moment. I’m continuing the cyclical worry thought train that prevents me from noticing what is happening right at that instance.
Living in the moment isn’t about not worrying and not regretting. Worry and regret are natural tendencies, unavoidable for those of us born with certain personalities. Living in the moment is about noticing what is going on at this very instance — noticing what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what you’re hearing, tasting, seeing. Living in the moment is a level below your thoughts and senses – it’s the recognition of what is happening right now, regardless of whether or not your feelings and senses are negative or positive, forward- or backward-thinking.
Instead of answering a worry with a justification, I’m now trying to just notice the worry. Notice it’s there. Describe it to myself. “There’s my old friend, worry.” And, upon noticing the worry, shift my attention to what’s happening right now — to what my body is feeling, to what sounds I’m hearing, to the beauty in the current moment. Because there really is so much beauty in the current moment. Take a second to notice it. Hear sounds but don’t describe them. Feel feelings but don’t justify them. Just notice what is happening right now. Regardless of bad or good, the current moment is always beautiful. It’s taken me some time to realize what carpe diem really means. Maybe the same is true for you. The realization starts with noticing.