"I have been asking myself what it takes to be present and fully absorbed in the life we are leading. It is not an easy question."
I was watching people walk around the streets today with their heads down in their smartphones, oblivious to the world around them, the beautiful fall day, and the sky. They were unmindful of the danger of smacking into a signpost or getting hit by a taxi.
Why is there so much escapism in our society? Digital escapes. Drinking escapes. Shopping escapes. Exercise escapes. And even vacations to get away from a life that feels like it’s not quite what we expected.
I was like this too, until a mountain pose changed my life, and I decided to leave an existence I frequently escaped. My drug of choice was travel—always remembering an inspiring trip or looking forward to the next one.
I walked away from my position as a managing director with a leading private bank a little more than a year ago. Since then, I live on less but also need a lot less escape.
I have been asking myself what it takes to be present and fully absorbed in the life we are leading. It is not an easy question.
So far, I have come up with three elements that seem necessary for a life to be so engaging that you won’t long to break out. First, we need to have a sense of purpose and meaning that causes us to wake up inspired each morning. Second, we need the ability to do some things that we love to do. And third, we need enough challenges to keep us stimulated but not so many that we are constantly stressed out.
Sure, you say, that sounds good. But how to get there? Sometimes it seems like such a radical change is necessary that we don’t know where to begin. Creating a life that you don’t need to escape doesn’t always mean that you have to walk away from your present life. Start by making some refinements.
Our well-being is composed of several core components: career and purpose, health, home, relationships, perspective, and finances. How will you know which areas you need to nurture? And what actions will support you along the way? Here are eight practices to help you get started and see you through:
Practical Steps for Transforming Your Life
Meditation is one of the most critical and effective practices for enhancing self-awareness. It will help you step away from your conditioning and identify what you need to feel fulfilled and what your values are.
2. Live Below Your Means
Being financially responsible is a path to freedom. You will not be able to experience ananda (Sanskrit for bliss), if you are worried about your financial security. As a private banker, I learned that no matter how wealthy you are, you can still be living at the mercy of your lifestyle. Many well-to-do people feel trapped because they have become overly caught up in purchasing things.
Physical possessions weigh you down. They require time, energy, and money, and always take you away from the more important things in life. You won’t fully appreciate how much of a drain your possessions are until you remove them.
Lack of organization causes constant distractions. Investing time in bringing order into your rooms, closets, office space, hand bag, and files will give you more presence.
4. Protect Your Time
You have one short life, so you must choose which activities and people deserve your energy. Protect your time for the things and people that matter most.
5. Find Happiness Daily
Happiness shouldn’t be something you pursue. Rather, it should be a personal experience that you can call upon daily. For me, it’s practices like my ritual of green tea in the morning, sitting in nature, or taking a candle-lit salt bath. I have learned that living a life of simplicity means enjoying the abundance that I already have.
6. Face the Truth of Your Impermanence
What I am about to say is often controversial because our society isn’t comfortable confronting death. But death is a reality. We all have an expiry date, so-to-speak, and will move on from this realm. Facing this truth is difficult, but ultimately is empowering.
Try this: When meditating, ask yourself, “If I continue to live my life exactly as it is now, what will I regret when I am on my death bed?”
7. Appreciate the Micro-Changes
Many of us expect that change or improvement must hit us in the face or nothing is happening. But transformation is a process that generally occurs in micro-movements. Don’t overlook the subtleties of your progress.
8. Be Brave
Human nature doesn’t like change. I have navigated a lot of self-inflicted change over the past year and know how unsettling it can be. But you won’t thrive by clinging to past patterns that are no longer working for you. You need to open yourself up to unexplored experiences and expect more.
There is no better gift than waking up every day feeling totally engaged in your life. This isn’t an easy task. For most of us, myself included, creating this situation is a work in process. When you find yourself escaping, see it for what it is, forgive yourself, then get your head up and back into the present.
Escape from your escape. You may be surprised and find yourself on a different kind of journey well worth taking.