Friday, 19 August 2011

Living in the Moment

You’re third in line in the supermarket queue, and the person directly in front – a woman in her late twenties with slicked-back, oily hair, a screaming child and a look of near-psychosis in her eyes  - has a trolley piled high with groceries.

Looking down at your own hand basket, you have only a few items. It would take just a minute for the checkout assistant to serve you. A quick glance to your left and right and you see the other queues are longer, so there’s no point swapping. You consider asking the woman with the heaving trolley if you can just nip in front of her. It seems a reasonable request, especially since you’re in a hurry to be somewhere else.

Just as you open your mouth to speak, she glares at her child with unblinking eyes and whispers, with a clenched jaw: “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!

You decide not to ask.

So you stand there… your new enemy and her demon offspring in front of you… and you’re getting increasingly frustrated by the unfairness of it all. I mean, what on earth is she doing, coming to a supermarket and buying so much stuff? And look at the processed crap she’s got in her basket! No wonder the child is hyperactive.

If you’d just got to the till faster… if that old woman with the limp and the curled-down lip hadn’t dawdled in front of you when you were marching down the vegetable aisle, you’d have now been standing IN FRONT of this monstrous woman ahead of you, rather than behind her.

She couldn’t even be bothered to wash her hair.

You purse your lips and exhale. The agitation is rising.

A glance at your watch reveals it’s 2:33pm, and you think, what are all these idiots doing clogging up the supermarket at 2:33pm on a Wednesday? What sort of moron does their shopping at this time of day, on this day of the week?

Then you see that two checkouts at the other side of the store are closed and you shake your head, thinking ‘bastards’ as you curse the supermarket for their inefficiency, their inability to provide anything close to even a basic standard of good service and you also call into question their human rights record.

As your nemesis finishes piling the absurd amount of crappy, non-nutritious foodstuffs onto the checkout console’s conveyor belt, and you notice that she’s readied a fistful of time consuming money-off coupons; and as her child wails in such a high pitch you expect the storefront windows to shatter, your brain begins to swell and your heart creaks in your chest.

Then… horror of horrors… there’s that buzz, and the checkout assistant (who you’ve now decided is both gormless and fat, and the other way around) lifts a pack of tampons above her head and shouts: “Can I have a price check on these?”

You don’t know whether to throw your basket on the floor and storm out or start yelling at everyone in the store about how they must be doing this deliberately.

Sound familiar?

It’s perhaps a slightly exaggerated example, but I’m sure it will strike a chord with most.

Resistance to what is - that mismatch between what is real, in the living moment, and what your mind wants, through its synaptic reflections or projections – is the greatest cause of stress, anxiety, frustration, sadness, anger, misery and general negativity there is for our species.

If you’re in that supermarket queue, wanting to be and thinking about being somewhere else, and getting annoyed about not being there, where are you?

You’re still in the supermarket queue.

At that moment… and in any given moment… you can’t be anywhere else but where you are, so why resist it?

Amongst that swell of life, surrounded by thousands of years of stories and experience, you reduce your perception of it all to near-nothing by retreating into a critical, grumpy state of mind.

Yet, by recognising and letting go of that negativity, you could immediately immerse yourself in the same state of peace you’d find and feel in yourself if you were sitting on a mountain, or on the shore of a lake…

Life is what is. Life is right now. Life is always and will only ever be in the living moment.

If your mind tells you you should be somewhere else, when you’re not, and that’s causing you stress, then recognise that your mind is at fault and reject its flawed thinking.

This extends to every situation and circumstance in your life…

If you’re overweight, you’re overweight and no matter how much your mind castigates you about being so, you will still be overweight in that moment.

If you’re in debt, then you’re in debt and unless you can pay that debt in that exact moment of realisation, you’re still going to be in debt.

If you’re locked up in prison, that is where you are, and no matter how much your mind protests and aches for you to be free, those are your circumstances of the moment.

And so on…

Acceptance of the moment allows you to shed the anxiety and negativity which your mind may wish to attach to and label that moment with. It allows you to move from a mentally constructed fabrication of virtual reality into actual reality… from thought into form.

Life is an ongoing process of change, so accepting the moment doesn’t mean that things won’t change… it just means you won’t be beating yourself up, psychologically, while you’re moving through that change.

And you can make plans, in the moment, to drive that change. In that space where negativity once lay, creativity and positivity pour in.

If you’re overweight and you’re uncomfortable with it, make plans to get fit.

If you’re in debt, make plans to repay it. If you can’t possibly repay it, make plans to tell the companies you owe to that you can’t possibly repay it. If you can’t possibly repay it to ‘Evil Steven’ the loan shark, make plans to move to a different area of the country and change your name.

If you’re in prison, make it the place you want to be, right now – not with such enthusiasm that you punch the prison governor in the eye to get a few extra years, but by recognising that, whatever the circumstances, that is your life and every moment of your time on this Earth is precious to you. Use the time as wisely as you can, in whichever way you can.

If those plans don’t work out right away, keep adjusting them. If you stumble or falter, get back up and start again. Never give up.

In time, you’ll be in the moment where you’re slim, out of debt or at your liberty again, and what certainly wouldn’t have got you there was all that needless worry or frustration.

Life is now and this human incarnation has a limited and unpredictable timespan, which is true for every single person on the planet… so why waste a moment of it?

Next time you’re in the supermarket, let go and live.

“A wizard is never late, nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to.”Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Rings


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  1. rules of thumb in supermarkets don't take your kids and avoid other peoples. never take anyone with you who likes the cake isle and eat before you go to avoid buying crap wear head phones and play loud music through them thus shutting out the world if all else fails be the unwashed harridan with the coupons its actually quite fun :) great blog

    1. tell that to a single mother! LOL, don't get the Christ part, never did LOL! As Bonnie Raitt wisely stated "Religion is for people who are scared to go to hell, spirituality is for people who've already been there." I guess I'm the latter!

    2. I appreciate your positivity and humorous outlook;)

  2. fantastic!
    the warmth in your writing is truly inspirational!

  3. Wonderfully written! This is the kind of advice we should all strive to follow.

  4. You spoke to me this I am sure many others. Thanks for your words. They are powerful. I only hope I can use those words to invoke myself. I was with my Dad yesterday and his pace is exact opposite of mine. I was being tested and my inpatient caused unnecessary friction. He is 71 and living on borrowed time...had a lung transplant 9 yrs ago. I hope to do better next time. Thanks again!

    1. Dan.... You will do better next time :-) Thank you Les for your wonderful blog. Queueing in supermarkets is a wonderful opportunity we just have to realise it and not waste it :-) Paul Hereford

  5. all very true Les. Infact, those times in the supermarket or bank queue I always find to be wonderful moments to practice mindfulness. You're standing there, nothing really to do except wait so the best thing to do is to - go within. To find, as you so nicely put it, 'the same state of peace you’d find and feel in yourself if you were sitting on a mountain, or on the shore of a lake…'

    If we don't go within...we go without :)

  6. Great post, Les. Rules to strive for! It makes life so much easier if you can just accept and adapt.

    Living in Thailand I have made myself do what you speak of. Here I've learned patience. You can only do one thing a day because it takes all day to do it!

    I really do enjoy watching your mind work and it's a great mind filled with compassion and desire to speak about things and not drive a nail through one's forehead. Keep it up!

  7. Kimi's solution to supermarket psychosis=internet shopping with home delivery XD

  8. I've been in both positions, the woman with the crying child (children in my case) and the woman BEHIND the woman with the crying child. Truer words were never spoken, Les: being in the moment helps the brain to calm down, look for solutions if there are any, or accept the situation with equanimity if there aren't.

    Another quote from Gandalf: "The only choice we have is what to do with the time given us."

  9. oh yes - have def. been there mostly I can block it out with a book or note book, indeed have made many a creative note while leaning on the handles of my trolley - but occasionaly I wonder why morons can't have their means of payment ready before they start filling up their bags!

    I have a special look reserved for noisy children(honed by three decades of looking after under fives!!!) I am the scary lady of the supermarket aisles - My friend's comment when confronted with screaming child is 'kill it it obviously wants to die' - one day she will be 'mother raged'but we both think it might be worth it!

  10. I find myself in this kind of situation often, and chastise myself everytime for something I could have done diffrently, whether its in a supermarket queue, if I'm late (I am not a wizard, it would appear) or thinking about things I could have done years before. You are right. What's the point? Someone told me the only thing we have any control over in the universe it the thoughts we think right now. Thank you for your post, well written and inspirational.

  11. Live the actual moment.
    Only this moment is life.

    ~Thich Nhat Hanh

    (Using this as my status message on multiple networks and is helping me cope lately.)

    This is such a timely and thoughtful post, Les, and thank you!

    - Nishi

  12. Priceless post, Les. You and I must've been at the same grocery store!

    The lesson of "living in the moment" is a constant struggle, and even more so when the present moment is not where we want to be. And you say, we can not be anywhere else.

    Beautiful words painted with the brush of a master. You inspire me to no end with your wisdom.


  13. accepting the moment for what is now, not what it was or even what it may's to supermarket lessons :-)

  14. if you can be there for yourself, you can be there for the other folks, too. Be the peace you want in that place. Vibrations shift vibrations. Ground yourself in your being. Breathe deeply, intentionslly relaxing your mind, releasing the tension in your body. Clearing, cleaning the irritation off yourself as if a standing in a refreshing shower of light.
    And when you - all of you - is truly present and at peace within the moment, smile. It's contagious and lightens those around you. Genuine smiling releases endorphins and prepares the body to experience pleasure/happiness. Share the wonderfulness of the moment.

    Namaste y'all

  15. ;) I have used a similar analogy, many times!! I am so happy another is doing the same!!
    I twist mine toward a can choose to be happy...choose to be doesn't change what is happening!!


  16. SIGH! I have been living in that state for 5mnths now. NOT PRESENT in the moment. living in "virtual reality" as u say, till a better tomorrow appears. Waiting for th day when I will be somewhere else. in fact, as i was walking to th internet cafe just a few seconds ago, I was actually thinking (with great discontent) "WTF am I doing in this place?"

  17. You make some very excellent points about living in the moment that really came at a good time for me. I really appreciate the reminder, and yet at the same time I feel the need to point out that I can equally identify with the greasy haired woman with the screaming kid. Why does she never wash her hair? Because she can't make time for a shower because of the screaming baby. Why are there so many groceries? Shopping with small children is hell - get it over with in one trip. Why is the baby screaming? What kid likes to be strapped in a shopping cart while Mom shops. I think empathy and compassion for others can also go a long way to understanding and acceptance of an unfortunate situation.

  18. All the while I kept thinking "Man I'm glad I'm not in front of those two seemingly possessed folk. Lord knows what kind of curse I'd of been layed with."

    We show up on time, where we are supposed to be, when we're supposed to be there. We just might not always latch on to the real reason why.

  19. This blogger has a great following because he speaks from the heart, as he does here.

  20. Sounds like you were shopping at Target, Les! I swear, every yuppie mommy in the USA skips nap time for the toddler in favor of a trip to Target. I paste a smile on my lips and whip out the iPod and headphones!

  21. Damn single moms and their disobedient kids eh? Gee... I agree that in that supermarket moment maybe we can find a way to reach out to help a stranger or connect with someone new? Ultimately it's not about just our own moment but the shared reality we are a part of. Our daily lives are so privatized and our experience sequestered into highways, line-ups,'s no wonder modern life is so frustrating! It's not just about changing our persception it's demanding new structures & people centered communities.(critical can be empowering) We're lucky to bump into each other and share even moments of frustration together. Don't you think? I'm endlessly curious about shopping habits and oily hair. Great blog! missk

  22. This human dilemma has existed for centuries and can be summed up in the phrase "Not my will but Yours be done.". Thanks for a fresh look at the human condition. Remember, we've all been "that annoying person" at one time or another so we can't judge too harshly.

  23. I guess living in the days when you had to queue for everything from bread to nylons (they came in at the end of the war and long queues were formed just to buy one single pair) we learned patience and to use our minds creatively. Better than worrying about varicose veins caused by much standing. Children were better behaved too, with few toys, learning at an early age to amuse themselves. Your post has given me insight into modern thinking and impatience. I did not realise such thoughts went on. But maybe we live in an area where folk are more relaxed?

  24. Perfect example! The worst part is that all the impatient people getting more and more frustrated by the minute are also thinking - "Am I the only one who sees the problem here????" LOL It's just so all about us, isn't it? That mindset that all this chaos is somehow all about impeding our progress. Oh yes, it's a giant conspiracy of slow, inept, and atrocious people IN MY WAY!! It's really quite funny... when you're not the one stuck in line. :) Thanks for giving me a good laugh today.

  25. As a person who survived and excelled for nineteen month in PRISON, I can attest to the fact that the moment is where it's at. Thank you for reminding me of those days, when I refused to give up and made the best of my surroundings.

    My positive attitude gave me the ability to take advantage of the tools available to me that changed my life! For example, I got G.E.D., earned an administrative clerk diploma where I learned many invaluable skills, including the ability to type in this moment!

    Additionally, I was able to enroll in college classes, where I learned I am intelligent and capable of high marks for the first time. My 3.75 g.p.a. got me into the college of my dreams, where I earned my B.A. All of this was possible for me because I stayed in the moment.

    As you know, I've struggled over the past few months with several things that have been harder than prison for me. Thank you for your reminder to stay in the moment, while I focus on the GOOD! I really enjoyed reading your very well written post!

  26. Thanks so much. It is wonderful when we make the choice to live in the moment; choose to be patient (I always need to work on that one) and rise above and continue.
    Choosing to have a tantrum always makes it worst and we look like an a-s. lol

  27. One of my biggest stress times is when I'm supposed to be sleeping. I'm trying to solve issues that can't possibly be handled at 2 o'clock in the morning. (The bank is closed, my boss is asleep, etc.) Trying to find my 'happy place' is a real struggle sometimes.

  28. This would be why I avoid the supermarket at all costs. Buy it at the roadside stand. By avoiding the supermarket you can also avoid overweight, debt and even prison, especially if you end up in line behind 'that woman'.

    I do like 'pantsworld's' suggestion about headphones and loud music. Might have to try that the next time I'm forced out of the moment and decide to go shopping.

    Great suggestions about living in the moment. Been living by that maxim for at least the last decade.

  29. what a life-real description and you are so right: with all these thoughts you are still in the same queue.Thanks for sharing your inspiration

  30. I noticed a big difference between western and Asian behaviour. Western-educated people tend to be more impatient and angrier while Japanese people even queue for the train: The belief in fairness and polite manners is conditioned from an early age on. You'll also notice that in a store if you try to cut in the line the shop assistant will (politely) refuse to serve you.

    It puzzled me first that in Europe and the US nobody queues but I got used to it quickly. It's just another way of doing things, of living I guess and has its own merits. (I hope ;)

  31. Breathe. Don't be a moron that shops at 2.33pm. Half an hour before closing time is my tip, especially at Costco

  32. I love you - you make me laugh :)


  33. Love these lines best:

    "If those plans don’t work out right away, keep adjusting them. If you stumble or falter, get back up and start again. Never give up."

    Thanks for this post!

  34. Great post! I had a similar conversation with my daughter and son in law yesterday trying to mediate some marital strife they are experiencing. I too loved the lines "If those plans don't work out right away, keep adjusting them. If you stumble or falter, get back up and start again. Never give up."

  35. that is how I cope in morning traffic. I issued to be angry and agitated. now I just think, this is where I am can't do anything about it so relax and enjoy the stillness. it actually works. living in the moment.

  36. Well said, my friend, well said.

  37. Oh yeah, I learnt that one ages ago, but good to see it reiterated - if stuck in a tedious job, concentrate on it and do it the best you can, and it becomes not so tedious. I learnt to lose 'queue' rage when I lived in Norfolk for 9 years - NO-ONE there gets cross when the little old lady at the front of the queue wants a little chat with the till operator, because she might be the only person she talks to all day - so, it makes you 5 minutes late to meet your friend in the pub - does it really matter? Nice on, Les!

  38. If in doubt, shop online. ;) Brilliant post. Love your style and philosophy on life. I agree whole-heartedly with it.

  39. Yes,thank you!

  40. This article is so true, we all experience moments of frustrations where we don't want to be where we are that particular moment but somewhere else. You can't help but to be there, the food shopping needs doing, work has to be attended etc etc. I've got that stage in my life where I accept the present situation I'm in but I'm taking steps to change my future to one that I desire. This post has come at the right time, I needed to hear these words to help spur me on.
    Many thanks Les :)

  41. My first blog-read this morning, well written and interesting. Best use of "gormless" that I have seen in a long time. I'll be following you, keep up the good work! :)

  42. After years of allowing myself to be sucked into the surrounding angst, the times when I feel most vulnerable I buy a hot chocolate, breathe deeply (never forget to breathe, can be bad for the health), sometimes plug-in, sometimes don't, and then just enjoy. I stand there smiling like an idiot, only I know now that I'm not the idiot. I know the secret that they don't. All is well. All is well.

  43. Hi Les...this came along at a very good time. Also really like your twitter bio...very similar to mine so I very much relate. I would like to quote you in my own blog if that's OK with you. How do I sign up for your blog? my email... thanks

  44. I'm going to start shopping after midnight again, if people drove the way they steer their trollies in a supermarket there would be a lot more accidents.

  45. I have this problem in stores. I hate shopping. Nothing but irritation! How to just let go and live in the moment when you want to rip someones face off?

  46. I promise that woman didn't want to be in the supermarket either.

  47. Brilliant post. Thank you for this glimpse of reality Les x

  48. hilarious post but also very true. I love the quote from Gandalf and I think it's entirely correct. It would be a lot better if we accept where and when we want to be.

  49. acceptance of the moment..yes..and i think i get my faith in me back..thank you les

  50. Just want to say, I'm a writer and a grocery clerk. I deal with that woman, and the frustrated customer in line behind her, all day long. I try and try and try to to stay positive, and in the moment, but sometimes the moment is hell and I just want to go home and write, and make oodles of money so I can quit. Every day I paste on the phony smile and remind myself that I need the money and most of all the health insurance, while cursing my company for being too cheap to schedule enough help. I must say though, that I would never hold up tampons or any other personal item and risk embarrassing my customers. I try to give good service even when the customers are counting pennies, or attempting to scam me with the wrong coupons. You think it's bad going through the line, you should try being on the other side. That said, I enjoyed the post and the idea behind it.

  51. Ain't working for me. In the supermarket situation, I still want to shoot someone and shut the damn kid up! Oh, am I being too harsh? Don't think so.

  52. I shop every day for fresh food...don't mind too much and no hurries. People are interesting, mostly. I love to observe so lines are fine...great time to zone out, engage in small talk etc. Never heard it referred to as supermarket queue. Yes of course appreciate each and every moment no matter how small.

  53. I was the one behind that lady in the checkout yesterday. I felt my blood pressure starting to rise. Then I remembered what I needed to do. I took a deep breath and started to concentrate on my breathing. Life is so much more fun when you just let it be what it is.

  54. You wrote this over a year ago and I am now just finding it?? I went to the market yesterday. Took me 30 minutes to find all the groceries for the week. Took me 30 minutes of waiting in line. And yeah, I wanted to scream. :)

  55. I am the cashier
    , at the center of the storm. Carrotts and peas go whizzing by some chicken," yes I have your double coupons here".
    Faster faster, the boss implores.
    Faster faster, the people in line.
    Faster faster (I gotta peee)
    I am the calm center of the storm
    I am the cashier.