I hear all the time about the importance of living in the now, which really is not so easy to do, is it? After watching Margaret’s video on the subject I felt inspired to share what I have learned about this as a musician, which I think could be an interesting perspective that not everyone has.
You might have heard the adage of telling a performer to “Break a Leg” as a way of wishing them luck before going on stage. But as a performer I know that this phrase doesn’t really fit right, because certainly breaking a leg would not be helpful to anyone’s performance; and what does luck have to do with having a successful performance anyway, considering all the preparation and work that has been done ahead of time?
I have noted over time that what we say has changed, and now mostly what I hear and use myself is, “Have Fun!” Meaning, ‘You’re done practicing and preparing and you’ve worked so hard – so now it’s time to just have FUN!’ The real wisdom of approaching it this way is that from my experience, being present in the now is really fun, and the more present you are in the moment the more fun it is! So to the degree you can let go of all the worries and nerves, or just not have room for them, and just have fun, the better things go.
Being fully present when you are doing something is also very, very powerful. When I see someone do what seems superhuman to me, I also can Identify how focused they are on what they are doing, and how totally they are in the moment with it. I actually think that the greatest performers are the ones who have achieved the goal of being completely present when doing their art.
Now this is hard enough, when you are completely consumed with something complicated like playing Music, in my case. But achieving this in everyday life is much harder because there is more space for all the unrelated thoughts, anxieties and fears to take you away from experiencing what’s happening right now. And may I say at any moment there are things going on that are just completely amazing, and we miss them all the time! So here is my challenge or suggestion to try. See if, as often as you can, you make whatever is going on right now for you Fun. Even if it’s something you don’t want to do, I’ll bet if you get creatively into the process and let yourself really connect with what you are doing, you may find that anything can be fun. And again, I feel strongly that when you are having fun, you are also more present in the now.
On the other hand, when you are “doing nothing” how can you work on being present? This is when it’s easy to slip into regretting the past or worrying about the future, which will take you away from whatever is happening around you. There is a quote from Buddha I’ve always liked that goes something like: “This Moment is very important…. Do Nothing!” To me this speaks again to the power of becoming more and more aware of what’s happening all around you and ceasing to listen to the voices in your head. I can call this a meditation, and for me the feeling after meditating can be quite blissful. Why? I think because you have just been more present during the time you were meditating.
I can tell you a couple of interesting things that happen when I do get into being more present. One is that time gets pretty weird – usually I notice that it just goes by really fast, and I’m not the only one who notices this – but sometimes it may seem to stop or slow way down in the sense that you become aware of so much, and observe so much that is happening in the instant, that time gets kind of warped, for lack of a better word. This can be a very profound experience, which I have heard others describe in different ways. Another thing that happens often is that you become unaware of your pains and other things that may be bothering you. For example, I get Migraine headaches and many years ago I had a physical therapist bet me that when I was playing the drums that I didn’t feel that pain. When I took notice after she told me this, I found she was right! Now, when I would stop, there it would be again; but as long as I was in the now of playing I didn’t feel it! Along this line of thought, I have often had music directors point out that when you come to a rehearsal, or especially a performance, you need to try and check all your daily worries and problems at the door. For that time, just be with the process of making music. Then when you are done those worries will still be waiting there at the door for you to pick up on your way out 🙂
So what I am saying is this; if you wish to try working on being more present or live more “in the now,” try finding a passion to immerse yourself into, and just work on “Having Fun” while doing it. I think you may be quite amazed what happens as you work on this in your life!