Jack Kornfield says he’s never seen a time when people are working so hard to live more fully. But for too many of us, living more fully is synonymous with cramming in more activities or events. As a result, we’re actually missing out on the lives we’re trying to enjoy.
“I felt like this was the time to talk about finding freedom where you are,” explains Jack, whose 15th book, No Time Like the Present: Finding Freedom, Love, and Joy Right Where You Are, was published May 16. “[People] want to know how to attend to our children, attend to those we love, to our work—but to do it with an open heart and a vast, wide-open spirit.”
The best-selling author, and one of the leading teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practices to the West, says, “Living a simpler life is really an invitation to become more fully present,” he explains. “We spend so much time lost in thought, either worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, that we miss out on the moment.”
But one day, today will be the past we’re looking back on, and he encourages each person to find the mystery and magic this moment offers.
“If we can take a breath, a sort of mindful pause, and say, here I am entering my workplace, or fixing my child’s lunch, or planning my work agenda…if we can take that time to feel our bodies, notice what’s happening out the window, maybe even take a little walk, then we find that we are living in that moment.”
Listen to our podcast with Jack Kornfield:
Breath by breath
Messages from traditional media and social media remind us that we’re missing out, but he says the real “missing out” comes when we’re not living in the present.
“Our culture wants us to get more and go more places and do more, buy more—it’s always more, more, more.” The result is that we may be constantly busy but perpetually drained. And, instead of enjoying what we’re doing, we’re thinking about the next thing on our to-do list.
“What helps is to understand we’re really not going anywhere,” Jack reminds. “Where we’re going is to be where we are. This [present moment] is God’s gift to us. So it’s not about doing more or getting more, it’s actually being present more.”
The mindful pause
While mindfulness—or what Jack calls “loving awareness”—can be difficult to master, it is easy to practice, and that’s really all it takes. It begins, he says, by taking two or three loving awareness pauses during the day. “In one minute, you can reset your compass,” he says, explaining that it is as simple as taking three or four breaths and quieting yourself for a moment.
“Feel your feet on the ground, be wherever you are, and take those breaths. And then, ask yourself, ‘What is my best intention for this next moment?’ And in that simple pause, your heart will answer.”
While this mindful pause will have an immediate effect, slowing down your heart rate, breath and mind, it will also have a longer lasting effect as you begin practicing it more. “There’s a quality of awareness that makes everything go better,” he says. “When you stand still and let the mind quiet just a little, the heart softens, the body is present and your intuition opens. From that, all kinds of possibilities open.”
Paula Felps is the Science Editor for Live Happy.