Think about how much of our lives are spent worrying about the future and regretting the past – we almost never are fully present in the moment. Researchers at Harvard found recently that fully half of the time our minds are not focused on what we doing or where we are. Those times we are truly present, in the moment, are astonishing to us because they are so rare. We vividly remember a sunrise from a camping trip 10 years ago, the feeling of peace and calm during a sunset drive along the coast last summer but forget what we were thinking 30 seconds ago.
Meditation is powerful precisely because it brings us into the present. Buddhist teachers talk about this in a way that makes sense- when we are truly in the moment we free ourselves of the habitual patterns of the mind that cause us to constantly worry about the future and regret the past. And most importantly, when we are in the moment, our natural state of joy and wonder and connection naturally wells up and envelopes us.
Focused exercise, especially that combined with beautiful music and welcoming friends, brings us to that place of peace and calm. The simple act of paying attention to our bodies – our legs, our breathing- as we cycle mimics the effects of sitting meditation in that we are focused and our mind is not wandering – we call this moving meditation. Runners, cyclists, swimmers, rock climbers – anybody that engages in repetitive, rythmic movement, already knows how calming this can be. But no need to be an accomplished athlete to access this feeling – for anybody it can be a primary method of being present, and every second we are doing that, we are not worrying about the future or regretting the past.