I did it. In 2019, I quit my 20+ year-long corporate career and started to be on my own.
I did it. In 2019, I went to a 10-day meditation retreat.
I did it. I achieved my 2019 goal- I did it.
Hence in 2019 life has taken a few turns and became more uncertain. In addition to prioritizing more time on contemplative practices and no longer banking my professional well-being on finding the right bosses, I also took drastic steps to wrestle with my mental health, and invested a significant part of our family’s financial (and physical) future into our primary school.
2019 reminded me that the shelf-life of mid-life crisis was going to be much longer. Its manifestations would be more than the sudden passion for golf or the preference to drape knitted sweaters over my polo shirts. I have become more confused- the present was chaotic, the past stopped providing useful explanations to anything, and the future seemed ever more ambiguous and uncertain.
In 2020, I will work on being more in the moment. This is very cliché precisely because it is a truth that has been very difficult to live out. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be generations of Eckhart Tolles and Tony Robbins trying to find ways to master and milk this.
Being more in the moment reduces anxiousness and ruminations. The more I pay attention to the present moment, the less brain space there is for me to revisit past memories, or to think about what’s next. I will be able to refrain from colouring everything with unproductive preconceptions and the stories I tend to tell myself. “That guy was an idiot because he posted pictures of the petitions on Facebook,” or “The ramen tasted great because the broth was made of tail bones of black Iberian pigs.”
In a way, the ability to be in the moment is the work to be innocent again. I am in awe of the child-like curiosity in the Dalai Lama or the raw sense of wonderment Mr. Rogers exuded every time he interacted with someone. Somehow the most mundane things could bring them to utter joy or tears. At the same time, they wouldn’t let these emotions linger- they would experience them fully, and then move on. It’s like they have on-demand dementia.
Being in the moment is also the secret to creativity. Joe Hisaishi is the legendary composer of the most memorable music of the movies from the Ghibli Studio. He said the key to his success was his mental ability to be quiet. Only a placid and calm mind would allow him to notice the moments where culmination of life’s experiences and knowledge floated to the surface of the mind. Similarly, Steven Spielberg described this phenomenon in the most cinematic fashion, “Dreams always whisper.”
Being in the moment is to pump oxygen into the vast abyss of the mind, so then the faint whispers of the Tinker Bells in our brains would echo into our consciousness.
I find it very difficult to be in the moment. It is a painfully trivial thing to do (I can’t squeeze any additional attention when my son asks me to read the same damn book the 102nd time). It is also terrifying. I am afraid of what I might discover. I worry about exposing myself to situations, emotions, and others. I think too much about how I might be perceived or how I might be deviating from what I have decided to be the “right” reactions. I dislike noticing my innate reluctance to be “here.” I do not want to face the trepidations and chagrin that come with life’s unfolding.
Yet the most useful and fundamental way to approach life is to embrace life’s imminent revelations, moment by moment. I yearn for the promise of perennial delight from life’s imminent surprises. I am the kind of person who instagrams lame quotes such as “No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place,” or “Knock knock, Neo.” Yep, I am the perfect sucker for this kind of stuff.
It is time to trash this 40-year-old habit of being numb. I am putting this down on paper, and this is the new tattoo I am going to put onto my forehead: