Savour the Moment
If you have read my blog on paying attention, maybe you will agree that being able to choose what we focus on is the starting point of being able to do anything else in our lives. The slogan on this mug suggests what might come next.
It is one thing to give our attention to something and it is another to be fully present with our experience of it. To savour the moment is to let ourselves feel the significance of whatever we choose to notice. A camera may “see” whatever it’s pointing at, but the picture has no effect on the camera. For us, what appears in our awareness feels like something. Or it could. Too often we seem to skim over the surface of things without fully letting them have any real impact. We are aware, for instance, that there are things and people in our lives that we can and should appreciate and be grateful for. We may have that thought and in an abstract way convince ourselves that we experience gratitude. But have we really lingered in the moment with the actual thing or person and felt that gratitude? Have we expressed it out loud?
An experience of savouring that we are all familiar with is eating our favourite food, or some new dish that has an incredible taste. We might pause in our chewing, close our eyes and completely give our attention to the amazing sensation of flavour. Maybe we let out a big sigh as we prepare for another mouthful. There are countless other opportunities we have in our day-to-day lives to have a similar experience. Maybe someone has given us a compliment or expressed gratitude for something we have done for them. Often, we will dismiss this and skip over it, saying “It was nothing”. Or we will mentally tell ourselves that we are not deserving of the compliment. Instead, we could pause and take it in. We could savour it. We could say “thank you” and “you’re welcome”.
To savour something doesn’t mean to cling to it and “milk it” for all it’s worth. It just means being fully present with it instead of ignoring or dismissing it. Everything that we are aware of first arises in our consciousness, then it dwells for a while and finally it dissolves and vanishes. To savour the moment means to make a space for something to dwell a while before it dissolves instead of hurrying it along.
One of my own practices for strengthened my ability to savour the moment is learning to play the piano. I took it up 6 years ago at the age of 59 and have thoroughly enjoyed it ever since. I am particularly interested in jazz and improvisation. I bring this up because for me it provides a good illustration of savouring. At a basic level, learning to play the piano (or any musical instrument) involves learning what notes to play in what order and combination. It takes a lot of concentration/attention. Yet just knowing what notes to play will not result in making a sound that is necessarily musical. For that to happen, I have discovered, requires that I bring my whole self to each note and feel it. Even in the brief moment that it has, each note can be savoured. Somehow if I do this, what I play sounds completely different. Much better, in fact. Why exactly this is so is a mystery to me, but it is so. I believe that every great musician has a well-developed ability to savour what they are playing and somehow because they do, they make a sound that we can also savour. Using the piano as an analogy, I have asked myself: Is there any part of my life where I have let myself be satisfied with merely “playing the notes”. This mug’s slogan, “Savour the Moment” provides an invitation to you to ask yourself the same question and to see about there being more to your life than simply hitting the right notes.
In my psychotherapy practice, when working with people who suffer from depression, they will report an inability to enjoy anything. The psychological word for this is anhedonia, which simply means the inability to experience pleasure. Part of what I do in this case is to encourage clients to begin practicing savouring the little things in their lives. It can seem sometimes that our greatest dreams and desires are unfulfilled and that there is nothing to celebrate. We can give up and forget how to appreciate and enjoy anything. We become numb. Savouring a little moment will not transform our lives, will not solve all of our problems, will not save us from having to confront our challenges. If we can regularly find even a little bit of pleasure or satisfaction, we will at least keep those neural pathways active in our brain. We will need them for when thing change for the better.
In fact, savouring isn’t just about lingering with pleasures great or small. It is also about being with our pain. To acknowledge and be with it as it arises, dwells and dissolves in our experience. What often happens is that instead of being with our pain and letting it naturally dissolve, we cling to it. Instead of swallowing it (using the food analogy) and moving on, we leave it in our mouth until it turns into a stinky mush. We ruminate. We spin stories about it and turn it into suffering that we become stuck in.
Even the pain of a broken heart can be savoured in the sense that it is the result of our capacity to love someone or care about something that has been lost. This doesn’t make the experience pleasurable. No, it still sucks. Yet at the same time, it affirms something about our fundamental human nature, something that we could actually value in ourselves. Such experiences potentially also connect us to others and to the human family in general. It turns out that when we refuse to feel our pain and ignore or numb ourselves from that experience, we also numb ourselves to pleasure. So, savouring the moment includes all moments, good and bad.
Perhaps the slogan on this mug will provide you with a regular reminder to not just notice what is happening, but to be as fully present as possible. A little nudge to let yourself enjoy the little things, the many fleeting pleasures of simply being alive day-to-day. As well, perhaps it will encourage you to be with whatever painful experiences you have, without milking them, letting them be until they naturally dissolve and change into something else. May you savour the moment.