One day I was in Dolores Park in San Francisco with my 9-year-old son, and we were enjoying the sun, lying in the grass. I’m not sure why, but I happened to check my phone for email, and then probably clicked on a link, and soon went down the rabbithole of reading online.
What I remember clearly is being stressed out a little as I was reading on my phone, and then feeling the sun on my face. Looking up, I realized I was missing an incredible moment with my son in the sunshine-filled park.
I turned from the screen to the moment in front of me. It was an instant shift in mindset, from being stuck in a virtual story to being in the reality of the moment. Instead of missing a moment with my son, I was now present with him and fully experiencing it.
Even when we’re not on our phones or computers, we’re in danger of missing the actuality of the moment. We get stuck in our heads: recall the Mind Movie that we see playing inside our heads, that we discussed in the Intro of this book. This Mind Movie captivates us, occupies our attention, creates a story that we get attached to.
As we focus on this Mind Movie — the story playing in our heads — we become attached to it and want it to be real, somehow. When it’s in our heads, this story begins to seem real. We envision our goals as almost real, if only we could get there. We see our ideals as almost real, if only everyone around us would meet these ideals, if only we ourselves could meet the ideals. We expect our story to come true, even if it doesn’t.
The problem is that when reality clashes with the story, we get frustrated, upset, bothered, angry, disappointed. These bad feelings can get in the way of our peace of mind and happiness. They can cause us to be less likely to stick to a habit. They can make us behave badly and harm our relationships with others.
This mismatch between the story in our heads, our Mind Movie, and reality causes a lot of our problems, including the resistance to our new habits.
The answer is to mindfully turn from the story to the reality of the moment.
Turn from the story to the sunsoaked moment in the park.
Turn to the moment, and see it as it is — even if it’s not a sunsoaked park, but a rainsoaked muddy field or a gloomy afternoon in your office. Turn from the story, and see the moment.
Learn to accept the moment, appreciate everything about it, find gratitude for it.
Otherwise, not only will you find resistance and frustration, but you’ll miss the beautiful moments of your life.
Mission: Practice seeing the moment
As you do your habit next, mindfully see the story you’re playing in your head. Then practice letting it go and turning toward the reality of the moment. This is a form of meditation — use your habit as meditation, practicing seeing the moment as it happens, as it is, appreciating everything about it.