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Excerpt from "Expand This Moment"

Enjoy This Moment

by John Selby

I drove into town this morning to see the skin doctor about a curious little growth on my scalp. Here in Hawaii we’re alert to skin cancer because of all the sunlight we indulge in year-round. An acquaintance died a while back because he ignored a skin condition that was indeed melanoma, and so it was natural that I found myself sitting tensely while awaiting the doctor’s verdict. Moreover, my brother went to the doctor six months ago complaining of a headache that wouldn’t go away, and he was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer — so of course my mind was caught up in worst-scenario anxieties about the new lump on my head.

I’m sure you know this basic life situation, where your future is uncertain and you fixate on your fear-based apprehensions. All sense of joy in the present moment seems to collapse when anxious forebodings dominate the mind, messing with your emotions, constricting your breathing, and fogging your thoughts.

In one way, I’m lucky when it comes to breaking free from such worrying. After all, I get paid to focus day in and day out on discovering and testing new methods for shifting from feeling bad to feeling good. My life study has been meditation, which is in essence a cognitive process for letting go of fear-based emotional contractions and entering a more fulfilling, compassionate, creative, and harmonious state of mind.

So, when I realized I was making myself suffer while awaiting the doctor, I remembered to practice what I preach. I did what I hope you’ll start doing — I brought to mind the first of the twelve Focus Phrases I’m going to teach you, and said silently to myself on my next exhale:

I choose to enjoy this moment.

First I said to myself, “I choose . . . ,” which enabled me to assume control of my own mind.

Then I said “to enjoy . . . ,” which specified where I chose to aim my attention — at enjoyment.

Then came the object of my focus, “this moment . . . ,” which aimed my attention at the immediate sensory events happening inside and around me right then.

The result was that my awareness instantly popped away from fearful imaginations about the future to whatever enjoyable sensations were present at the moment. By filling my mind with words of positive intent, I was able to turn away from the fearful chatter running in the back of my mind and reconnect with ongoing sensory events happening right then inside my body.

You’ll soon discover that, as I described in the introduction, whenever you shift your attention back to what’s happening in the present moment, you naturally tune in first to your own breath. This shift is ideal because, as other researchers and I confirmed in perceptual studies we did some years ago at the National Institutes of Health, as soon as you focus on the sensation of air flowing in and out of your nose, all thoughts tend to simply fade away and stop. This instant quieting of the mind in turn generates relief from anxious imaginations and emotions.

And indeed, as I sat there in the doctor’s cubicle, my sensory attention woke up when I said to myself, “I choose to enjoy this moment,” , tuned in to my breathing, and let go of upsetting memories and forebodings that’d been grabbing at me. As I took a good breath of air, I spontaneously stretched a little and woke up good feelings in my body. Just then, the doctor came in, took a look at my lump, and told me that the growth was totally benign. There was in reality nothing to worry about.

No More Torture Chambers

If we’re honest with ourselves, most of us will admit we tend to run torture chambers inside our own minds. We spend part of our lives tormenting ourselves with worries about the future — fearful imaginings and forebodings that almost never become reality. Think back over your life and consider the vast number of times you’ve worried yourself sick about some potentially negative financial, health, or relationship situation that never came to pass — or if it did, it generated much less emotional suffering than all your worrying did.

Several of the Focus Phrases you’ll be learning are aimed specifically at giving you the power to regularly short-circuit your habitual anxiety habits. The first Focus Phrase by itself can often do the job, once you practice a bit, by helping you temporarily refocus your attention away from thoughts about the past and future. By returning your attention to the experiential present moment, you will be able to relax, tune in to your sensory presence, and more times than not, thoroughly enjoy your here-and-now experience.

Most of your waking moments take place in safe and enjoyable situations. Maybe now and then you are forced to deal with real danger and physical suffering, but you’ll find that usually, when you refocus on your present-moment experience, you are indeed free to enjoy the moment rather than suffer.

And you do have a clear choice each new moment: you can focus on negative anxious thoughts, uncomfortable or painful sensations, depressing guilt-ridden memories, or anxiety-provoking future imaginations. Or you can focus on any of the vast assortment of positive sensations, creative flashes, empathic emotions, and uplifting thoughts that make you feel good, confident, open, bright, and yes, happy.

When choosing between anxiety and enjoyment, there’s really no reason to choose anxiety. In fact, when you see clearly that you have the choice, there’s hardly any choice to be made. The same basic logic applies to all other negative mental habits, such as heaping guilt and blame on your head, judging others overmuch, thinking thoughts that make you feel depressed or angry or wronged, and so on. You do have the power to choose to quiet such thoughts and shift your attention to the pleasure of the present moment. So, whenever you find yourself feeling bad, remember that you can say yourself: “I choose to enjoy this moment.” And do just that.

John Selby is the author of more than 20 books including Quiet Your Mind, Seven Masters, One Path, and most recently Expand this Moment. Educated at Princeton, University of California, Berkeley, the Graduate Theological Union, and the Radix Institute, he has worked as a therapist and mindfulness coach for two decades. Visit him online at http://www.iUplift.com.

Excerpted from the book Expand this Moment © 2011 by John Selby. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.

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