When you relax in the moment, you are priming the most creative part of your brain, the visualization center in the posterior part of the brain. You supercharge your creative thinking by turning on these visualization centers. It’s not clear why that is, but the observation is right there in living Technicolor. When you relax in the moment, the PET scan lights these centers of visual thought. What scientists believe happens is that when we live entirely in the moment, we free up the brain to think visually by turning off parts of the brain that drain energy away into neurotic and anxious thinking. When you see a great movie, opera, ballet, or sports event, you become totally absorbed in the moment, with your visual centers glowing brightly as the anxious concerns of the day take a rest. It is one of life’s great ironies: We believe we accomplish so much by constantly worrying, when in reality we are preventing ourselves from opening the most magnificent part of the brain, the center of visual thought. Thomas G. West, who has written an excellent book on visual thinking, In the Mind’s Eye, says that many of the great thinkers in history thought visually – physicists Albert Einstein, Michael Faraday, and James Clerk Maxwell are but a few. Many experts believe that visual thinking is the highest form of intelligence. Great athletes also think visually. They live exclusively in the moment and it pays off in Olympic Gold.
For the rest of us who are not Olympians, it is just as critical to strip away energies that are going in any direction but in the moment so that we can light up this most creative part of our brain. Many of us are so preoccupied with what we’re going to do next or what terrible misfortune may befall us or what has already befallen us that we simply fail to operate fully and at our best in the moment. Many people fail to live in the moment because they believe that if you live FOR the moment you will lose your grasp on reality. That’s not what being IN the moment means. If you truly want to grasp the opportunity that is laid in front of you at any given moment, you should be consumed by the moment.
How to Enter the Moment
Become an actor or actress
The very best actors in the world succeed by becoming bold and brave enough to exist only in the moment. You can acquire these same skills. You may think that’s completely wrong because actors and actresses are “faking” it. However, the very best never fake anything. They are absolutely true to every word that comes out of their mouth. Why? Because they are living totally in the moment, living the lines they are speaking as they speak them. Here’s how you can practice.
The best and most practical way of practicing how to be in the moment is to read aloud. Try reading aloud on a daily basis. The key is to truly own the material. Glance at it, lift it off the page, and just say it. Don’t dramatize the line. Think of lines as thoughts or images and let the line do the talking. Say it as if it were it real conversation and you’re the one speaking. Reading aloud will immediately get you to think, act, and be in the moment. If you have children or a spouse, read to them. Or volunteer your time to read to the sick in the hospital – a great way to escape your own troubles and dive into the moment.
Harold Guskin is the most famous acting coach in New York, teaching stars such as Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, and Bridget Fonda. First and foremost, he will teach you not to “do” anything with the words that you read. By just saying the words as they hit you, you’ll find that your mind colors the words in a wonderful way. Take Robert De Niro as an example. He often speaks in the most understated manner possible. His voice, however, is still exploding with color and meaning. Being in the moment is what matters. Harold says: “It is an exploration of the moment without concern for where the moment is going. One’s concentration should not be on how to do something or how to say it but rather on what it is and what it means. For an actor, if you think about how you’re going to do something or how you’re going to say it, you will manipulate the way you say it and it will sound contrived. You want it to sound like a human being so the audience can forget that you’re an actor on stage. Even if what you’re saying is effectively contrived, you will still seem false or ‘actorish’ – or like an ‘old-fashioned actor.’ The key is to say what you mean without trying to fix it up. What you say must be more important than how you say it.”
You may say, “My life isn’t a goddamn Bruce Willis movie! It’s real life. How can this advice help me?” Well, Harold’s advice has to do with courage, trust, and fear, traits most of us, including actors, have trouble with. Once you have mastered reading aloud in the moment, carry these techniques into conversations with friends and relatives, then colleagues at work. You’ll be amazed how useful this skill will be in meetings with your boss or coworkers, dinner dates, or gatherings with your family. Rather than rambling, you’ll be talking and listening to others as if there were nothing else going on in the universe, and as a result, all of your interactions will become more fresh and alive and you’ll suddenly find yourself much more attractive to others.
Here’s how you can incorporate Harold’s advice into your everyday life: Concentrate on each word you say as you say it. Block out all other thoughts. Don’t try to monitor yourself or think ahead. Most of us try to prepare the next couple of sentences, but that makes us extremely dull and predictable. When you look at a really great talent, say David Letterman, he literally doesn’t know where he’s going next because he’s exploring the moment. That’s what makes him so unexpectedly funny. You will be amazed how creative you really are when you just allow the next thought to come. Be assured that it really will come and will be far more interesting than whatever rote statements, stories, or jokes you might have prepared. Success in my own career during TV and radio interviews and public speaking was having the courage to just let the next thought come rather than preparing rote answers. This allowed for the unexpected and made me much fresher and more interesting than if I simply rattled off a bunch of facts. You’ll be amazed at how much more positive and natural an impression you’ll make. When you do thinking work, such as writing a proposal or reading a document, try to be totally in the moment so that you are consumed by what you’re writing or reading. Read it aloud. Allow yourself to read and reread it aloud to find innovative solutions to problems you thought were insoluble.
Next time we’ll look at Selflessness and its role in Seizing the Moment.
Dr Leo Kady