Sand castles and the art of Now

The past is history, the future is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present. ~ Master Oogway, Kung Fu Panda

My brother and I just got back from a week long vacation in Florida, driving from Orlando to Miami to Ft. Myers to Tampa and then back to Orlando.

It was the first time I had seen my father in a while (he has lived and worked in China for the past 7 years). After having been reminded of the art–and power–of the now by this Psychology Today article, I wanted to make a conscious effort to live in the present as much as possible and enjoy every moment with my father and brother.

our sand castles

I remember the day the three of us spent a beautiful, warm, cloudless afternoon on Sunny Isles Beach. We each built a sand castle, digging with our hands like dogs, scooping hand fulls of soaked sand to use as structural support, and carving our castles with the small plastic shovel.

I was completely in the moment, in a state of flow, focusing only on the task at hand–digging the moat, carving the sides. When I wasn’t building, I would take breaks by sitting on the sand at the edge of the water, letting the waves flow over my feet and legs while I stared at the horizon, just appreciating the sun’s warmth on my body, the muffled talking and excited shouts of the other beach-goers around me, the crashing of the waves–the present moment–and thinking of nothing else.

The Now, gratitude, and happiness

Through this experience and many others, I’ve learned that living in the moment begets gratitude. And the attitude of gratitude is a powerful one. On the beach, I felt gratitude for being able to spend time with my father and brother, for the luxury of being able to travel to somewhere so beautiful, for the warm water, sand, sun, air–for being alive.

Fears and worries are predominately rooted in the past or future. None of that is happening in the present moment, and the present moment is reality, it is all that one has.

I remember being nervous about going to my first few days of work two summers ago (it was my first real “office” job). Every morning, before I left for work, I meditated. I focused on nothing but my breath, the only thing that was actually happening in the present moment, the thing that reminded me of the life that I have; however, my mind would wander to worrying thoughts of the future and I would get that “butterflies in my stomach” feeling. Then I did one thing: acknowledge it. The simple act of acknowledging that physical feeling, that I was feeling it right now in the present, and labeling it as anxiety, removed it. The feeling melted away.

Neither the past nor the future exist yet. There is nothing to fear or worry about, because those things are derivatives of thoughts about the past or future. Regardless of what situation one might be in, we all have a ton to be grateful for, especially what’s happening in the present (even if it’s something as simple as being alive). What’s something about the current moment that you can be grateful for?

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