Can you feel your feet? No, not with your hands. In this moment, can you feel the sensations going on in those two things that carry you around all day? What about your left little toe? Can you feel "inside" it? Chances are good that unless the poor thing is yelping in pain, you've given it no thought at all. How about the inside of your right knee? Or the tip of your left shoulder blade? Are you living in your body, or is your body simply following your brain around?
We live in a culture of "talking heads," and the heads doing most of the talking belong to us. What were you thinking before reading this newspaper? Was it about something in the past? "I can't believe what he said to me! … That jerk in the pickup cut me off! … Good grief, I screwed up again. What an idiot I am." Or it could have been something in the future. "Where will I get the money? … What if I bombed that test? … I'll be happy when I finally get a new job, house or car." Sound familiar?
Can we change any of those situations by thinking about them constantly? No. Does it make us feel good to think about them? No. Then why do we choose to do it? It is a choice, after all.
Let us make another choice. Think. In this moment, what do I lack? Am I fed, clothed and warm? Most of us are. But do we spend much time thinking about how good things really are right this minute? I'm getting better at it, but I ain't there yet. How about you?
The concept of living in the moment is not new. Teachers, philosophers and motivational speakers have preached it for centuries. Why don't more of us practice it? Some may say it's only for Tibetan monks on mountaintops. But there is a distinctly practical side to changing the way we think. Scientists have demonstrated the effect of stress on our bodies, and we know how hard it is to bear. That is why we constantly seek ways to reduce it. From spa treatments to TV, books and movies, to drugs and alcohol, we look for escape from stress.
Shouldn't we consider the source instead? Who creates all this anger, anxiety, fear, guilt and worry? We do it—by allowing the continuous talk in our heads. The guy who cut us off in traffic is not the culprit. Our reaction to him is. And the negativity grows every time we push the instant replay button. Eventually, these brain loops affect the body, causing muscle tension, indigestion, headaches and more. A continuous stream can cause serious disease and impaired relationships. It would be cheaper, easier and much more fun to simply change our minds—before we land in the doctor's office with a self-inflicted illness.
For the spiritually inclined, there are other advantages to changing our thought patterns. One cannot connect to God with a mind full of negative thoughts. Many of us have begun some form of meditative practice, but often have difficulty taking the feeling of presence into our everyday lives.
One opportunity is to create an awareness of how our bodies feel in the moment. Which brings us back to our feet, so as a beginning exercise, try this. Give your feet a nice massage. Thank them for carrying your baggage around. And don't think about anything except how good it feels.