Think about the last time you listened to a song you love. What was the point of that experience? This may be an odd question to ask, but let’s sit with it. What is the point of listening to music? After reflecting on this you may find that the point of listening to music is the experience of listening itself. When you are fully engaged with music, there is no particular part of a song that provides its meaning. Every piece of the song is integral in creating its total harmony.
Now think about your life. What is the point of life? Many of us are conditioned to think that the point of life is to arrive at some particular place in the future. This place may be something we call “success” or “stability.” And we often only have an abstract conception of what these mean – so how would we know when we arrived?
From a young age, we receive messages about the critical importance of what lies ahead. Remember how middle school often seemed like just a stepping stone to high school? Then high school ultimately became dominated by a focus on college. Many college courses were completed with a “it’s just to get the degree” mentality. And once you have the degree, you can finally make it out into the workforce, full of opportunities for a promotion somewhere in the future.
Once you have a job you can focus on dating, which is designed to get to the next stage of being in a relationship. Settling into a relationship can be challenging as there can quickly be the idea of “next steps” – moving in together, engagement, marriage, kids – and so on it goes.
There is of course nothing wrong with accomplishing anything above. But what happens to the quality of these steps when our focus is always the next thing? We have all been there before. You finally get that thing you were focused on. Maybe it was a dream job, a new car, or a date with that person you have always liked. Everything feels just right – but for how long? How soon until you are back to focusing on the next thing?
What would it mean to experience your life more like a song? Just as the point of music is the experience of listening itself, so too the point of life is the experience of living itself. From this perspective, it is the unfolding experience of the present moment which becomes a greater place of focus. This is not a suggestion to abandon any planning for the future. It is simply an opportunity to view both the striving towards and the attainment of goals as inseparable parts of the same process – just as a verse and chorus are inseparable parts of one song.
If you conceptually see how life can be experienced as one moment by moment process, I invite you to try putting it into practice. When you achieve goals, see if you can allow yourself to settle into a sense of gratitude and appreciation before seeking what’s next. Next, see if you can view the time in-between accomplishments as equally important as the accomplishments themselves. You can do this by noticing when the present moment has become just a stepping stone to some desired place in the future.
Ask yourself, “what is my relationship to this moment?” The more you can connect to all moments with a sense of richness, the more you can begin experiencing life like a song.