Of all the challenges I face each day, living in the
moment is probably the most difficult. I know that I should be savoring each evanescent nanosecond that races through my
life, but the truth is too much of the time I'm somewhere other than here.
No matter where my body is, my mind is somewhere else. Westerners are good at not living in the moment. In
fact, they are specialists at living somewhere other than here.
Cellular telephones and I-Pods fit nicely into Somewhere Other Than Here
Societies. In these societies you can't tell where people are.
Their body may be in Boston, but their mind can be anywhere. Walk down
any street, and you'll see dozens of people plugged in to other worlds.
Whether they are talking on their cell phone or listening to music doesn't
matter. What counts is they aren't with you in your world.
Folks talking on cell phones while driving cars routinely
ram other vehicles, because their mind is in a different place than their
car. They are somewhere other than here.
Try having a conversation with people who are listening
to music through headphones. You can't tell whether the person is
paying attention to you as their head bobs right and left and up and down.
I don't mind people listening to music, but for heavens sake, shed those
headphones while you're talking to me. I want to know that I'm actually
having a conversation with someone who is in my world.
Cell phones and I-pods aren't evil. They merely illustrate how easy it
is to become a member of a Somewhere Other Than Here Society. The more
time you spend in Somewhere Other Than Here, the less time you spend living
in the moment.
The picture at top of this page was taken from the summit of a volcano on Graciosa
Island in the Canaries. As I look down, I have a choice. I can
bop along the volcano's crest with music blaring in my headphones, or I can
shed the headgear and listen to the crashing surf below. I can hear
and feel the howling high altitude winds buffeting me at the top, or I can
plug in my headphones and miss it all. While there's nothing wrong
with enjoying my favorite tunes on the summit of old smoky, why not spend a
few minutes focusing on the things found only at the volcano's peak. Surely there must
be something unique about the summit that you can savor.
Sailing offshore in a yacht makes it easier to live in the moment. You
are so in tune with the wind and waves that even a slight change in sea
state immediately grabs your attention; it will wake you up out of a
deep sleep. That's how single-handed sailors keep their boat moving
around the clock. They obviously have to sleep some time, and because
they are living totally in the moment, they automatically wake up if anything is amiss.
If they're not in the moment as they sail across the Pacific, they may not
make it to the other side. Living in the moment keeps them from
falling overboard. Real mariners don't wear headphones when
they go forward to make sail changes, because they want to live to see
another day. Mindful sailors are survivors.
When I'm at sea, living in the moment means I am paying attention to what I
am doing and what my boat is doing. I live each day in a
mindful manner. I enjoy the sun when it peeks over the horizon and
lights up my world. The morning sky tells me what the weather will be
like that day. Each wave passing under my hull has a message.
Large rolling swells that shouldn't be there tell me there's a distant storm
churning away and throwing off swells in my direction. The familiar
sound of creaking timber tells me that all is well onboard, and new sounds
that I've never heard before tell me to investigate their source because
something is different on Exit Only and I need to know it's not a problem.
Mindful living is part and parcel of the offshore sailor's life; it gives him the upper hand in his sometimes uneasy truce with a
I suspect that the farther you are from metropolis, the easier it is to live
in a mindful manner. Out on the sea you live in a private world, and
it's quiet in the sense that there are no man-made sounds blaring in your
In metropolis every restaurant and department store pumps sound into your head,
because they want you to buy what they are selling. When there's music
bouncing around inside your head, it pushes buttons that suspend your good
judgment, and you impulsively buy things you don't really need. They
don't want you to have a silent shopping or dining experience, because they
want to control you by putting exciting sounds in your ears. This
isn't some type of sinister plot that's trying to take over your life.
All they want is your money, and it's basically harmless, except that it
contributes to mindless living.
Unconscious living is typical in Somewhere Other Than Here Societies.
Living in metropolis is an uphill struggle if you want to live in a mindful
manner. There's too much noise, too many bright lights, too much
hustle and bustle, too much time spent listening to I-pods and talking on
cell phones. All of these forces conspire to prevent you from living
in the moment.
The big problem with living somewhere other than here is
that you miss out on your life. You have a tangential existence that
experiences real life for only milliseconds before you head off again to
some place other than here. That may be ok for you, but it doesn't
work for me.
As for me and my boat, we are going to live in the moment. Once in a
while I'll listen to some I-tunes, and I'll answer the cell phone when it
rings, but I've got my feet firmly planted in the real world, and that's
exactly where I'm going to stay. This moment is all I really have, and
I'm going to immerse myself in it.