This morning I was writing at my favorite coffee shop when a cute little elderly woman with big, bright eyes and rosy cheeks sat down at the table across from me. She pulled a sketch book out of her bag and began looking around the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her look in my direction, study my posture intently, smile, and begin sketching.
We sat there next to each other for nearly four hours while she sketched and I wrote. And as I shifted back and forth, captivated in thought, I felt a bit self-conscious sometimes. Because I could feel her watching me as she practiced her art.
But I wasn’t too worried because I hadn’t planned on striking up a conversation with her. After all, she seemed absolutely satisfied sketching in silence, and smiling at her sketches and at all the other people who surrounded us. I did, however, glance up a few times just to see her smile. Because her smile expressed a kind of passion and presence I seldom see.
As the clock neared noon, a new customer came into the coffee shop and let a gust of wind in the front door. The wind blew a completed sketch right off the elderly woman’s table and onto the floor directly in front of me. The sketch was detailed and amazing. It perfectly depicted a man who looked a lot like me typing on a laptop.
I looked up at the elderly woman and smiled. “Who’s that good-looking guy?”
She chuckled and rolled her eyes. “I don’t know,” she replied. “He’s just a fairy tale character.” She then handed me a few of the other sketches she’d been working on. One of them was of the barista behind the counter and the others were of different customers in the coffee shop.
“Wow!” I exclaimed.
She sighed, smiled and said, “Sometimes I wish I could capture all of the world’s beauty in my sketches, but I’ve come to realize it’s simply impossible. So, capturing still-frames of beautiful moments is what I settle for.”
I told her that all of the world’s beauty actually is captured in every sketch that perceives a moment just as beautiful. And that her sketches are truly beautiful, just like her smile, because they reveal a presence and a passion to see beauty in common places—a beauty most of us miss.
She chuckled again and said, “My late mother once told me that beauty occurs when time ceases to exist. And if she’s right, then perhaps my sketches are beautiful. Because, for me, time ceases when I try to bridge my perceptions with the moments unfolding around me.”
I smiled wide and then turned my laptop around so she could read the words I had written just moments before: “Time ceases to exist when she engages in this moment, because she wants nothing more than the beauty this moment has to offer.”
“Who is she?” she asked.
“She’s just a wise fairy tale character others will read about… and metaphor for hope to me,” I replied with a wink.
She winked back, as if to prove she wasn’t just a metaphor. And before I could even smile, I suddenly sneezed. She laughed and told me that for just a moment in mid-sneeze I looked like Tarzan, and asked if I could hold that pose so she could sketch me looking like Tarzan.
I told her I didn’t mind holding a mid-sneeze pose for a few minutes. Because as she sketched, I got a chance to see the look in her eyes. You know the look I’m talking about… it’s the look when beauty is perceived, time ceases to exist, and fairy tale characters come to life.
The Presence to See What You’ve Been Missing
Why did I just tell you that story?
Because we all need a good reminder sometimes.
We need to be reminded of the beauty of passionately absorbing oneself into the present moment—into the people, the dialogs, and the priceless little proceedings that exist there.
We need to be reminded of what it’s like to bring “fairy tale characters” to life.
Because too often, amidst the hurry and hustle, we forget.
We forget what’s possible when we pay close attention
We forget to appreciate the gifts directly in front of us.
So, I wrote a story about my morning—just a routine morning at my favorite coffee shop—that brought unexpected beauty into my life simply because I was paying attention.
I noticed the cute elderly woman sketching me. I welcomed her presence. I didn’t resist. I didn’t try to change the situation. I wasn’t in a hurry to get somewhere better… and neither was she.
We were 100% there, in the moment, with each other.
And, as a result, we created a truly memorable story together.
Let Each Moment Open Your Eyes
Where you are and what you’re doing at any given moment is absolutely essential.
Because it is the only moment guaranteed to you.
You are not on your way somewhere else.
You are not progressing to a more important time or place.
The present is not just a stepping-stone—it is the ultimate destination.
This moment is where your greatest opportunity lies.
This moment is your life!
It might seem obvious, but, again, we forget. We all do, far more often than we’d like to admit.
All day, every day, many of us feel like the present isn’t enough—like our life simply isn’t worthy of our full presence. And because of this, we miss out on so much of life’s beauty.
But what if we did the opposite?
What if we accepted this moment, and everything and everyone in it (including ourselves), as exactly enough?
What if we accepted the “bad” with the good, the letdowns with the lessons, the annoying with the interesting, the anxiety with the opportunity, as part of a package deal that this moment alone is offering us?
What if we paused right now, and saw everything with perfect clarity?
Keep thinking about it…
Would we live more meaningful and memorable lives?
Would we have more beautiful stories to cherish and share?
I think we would.
And thus, I think now is the best time to pay attention.
Now is the best time to look around in awe—of our health, our homes, our families, our friends, our work, and our momentary opportunities.
Now is the best time to notice the little fairy tales in our lives—to see what we’ve been missing all along.
Two words: Mindful awareness.
Far easier said than done, of course. But doing so is worth every bit of effort you can muster.
Mindful awareness as a daily practice is the ultimate challenge. It’s a way of living, of being, of seeing, of tapping into the full power of your humanity.
To practice, remind yourself to…
- Be aware of what’s happening in the present moment without wishing it were different.
- Enjoy each pleasant experience without holding on when it changes (which it will).
- Be with each unpleasant experience without fearing it will always be this way (which it won’t).
Ritualize this kind of awareness into your daily routines, and you will undoubtedly change how you see and experience life from here on out. (Angel and I build mindful, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
Closing Thoughts (and, it’s your turn…)
After the elderly woman I met this morning finished sketching me in my best sneezing pose, she held up her sketch, admired it with a genuine smile, and said, “Oh Tarzan, I love it! Why didn’t I learn to open my eyes and appreciate these encounters a little sooner in life, and treat every day like it was the first time, and the last?” Then she paused for a moment in silence as she held her smile, took a deep breath, and with her eyes still locked on her sketch, she continued in a softer tone, “Oh Tarzan, my only regret is how often I subconsciously believed in the significance of tomorrow.”
May we all take her sentiment to heart. And learn from it.
Before you go, let’s revisit a question I asked above:
- What if you accepted this moment, and everything and everyone in it (including yourself), as exactly enough?
How might doing so change what you see?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Also, if you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.
Sara Dee says
Talk about timing! The link to this article arrived in my email when I was sitting here thinking about how much time I’ve spent recently worrying about the next step in my life, and how little time I’ve spent appreciating the step I’m presently on.
Your opening story reminds me of an era of my younger life when I used to find more joy and peace in the little things. The way you are able to convey your interaction with that elderly woman into a string of emotions and sensations that lead to such a beautiful conversation should remind us all to look at the simple moments and opportunities in our own present lives, to see the magic hidden within each one. Because there really is immense potential for something special…something fairytale like ….in the seemingly small moments in between all the big moments.
Thank you for this wake-up call. And I’m five days into your Getting Back to Happy course too. I’ve already setup up a daily ritual of ten minutes of self-inquiry and reflection. And now I know what my next ritual will be: practicing presence at a few set times through my days.
Marc Chernoff says
We love your sentiment, Sara. Angel and I just read your words together. No doubt, the little moments are the big ones. This moment, right here, for Angel and I, is one of them. 🙂
And well done on the new ritual. Self-inquiry is a powerful long-term tool. Keep going, one day at a time.
Such a reflective read. This one really got me thinking about the fact that when I’ve embraced the moments of my life without conditions, I am often happier and more a peace. This is especially true with my interactions with family and friend relationships. Just letting my exceptions go.
To quote your book — a quote I’ve always used as a personal mantra (and one I just recently saw another commenter mention in a previous article of yours):
“The best present you can give a person is the purity of your complete attention. Just be present with them, and pay attention to the little things.
And don’t forget, that ‘person’ can be YOU too.”
Cheers, M&A! 🙂
Marc Chernoff says
It’s great to know that you resonated with that quote from our book, Greyson. Thank you for sharing it.
Treating each moment in my life as enough would increase my awareness, humility and appreciation for what I do have (instead of stressing about what I want every second). It would keep my focus on what’s in front of me instead of drifting off to all my fears and anxieties and what may never come to pass.
Your weekly coaching and blog teachings are changing my perspective. Thank you. And I’ll leave you with a quote that this post reminded me of:
“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
PS. Will there be a way to buy a digital recording of your Think Better Live Better conference that just took place this weekend? I was there and I’d love to re-watch the talks and workshops with my daughter.
ANDREW G RUSCKOW says
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Luke 12:22?-?31?, ?34 ESV
Marc Chernoff says
You are welcome It’s rewarding to know that our work is gradually allowing you to make the necessary shifts. Keep it up!
As for the digital recordings of the Think Better, Live Better conference, yes, we will have them available soon. If you are on our email list (https://www.marcandangel.com/subscribe/), we will send you an update on this soon. 🙂
A beautiful exchange between 2 strangers. Perfect for me this morning as I ponder why I continued to be a painter. It certainly isn’t about the money. Perhaps it is more about capturing a moment or sharing my view point of what I see. Just staying in that moment certainly brings me to a happy place and gives me a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.
I love your blog it sets my mind and heart straight.
Excellent! I was not able to attend your Think Better, Live Better conference but would like to buy a digital recording of it becomes available.
This morning, I experienced an interaction with someone that I had anticipated for years. It certainly did not unfold as I hade dreamed it would. And I became nervous and filled with anxiety.
I was off in to future thinking as we conversed without truly “being in the moment” with him. As a result, I missed genuinely connecting. I became disappointed in myself.
As I returned to my home office I was greeted with this essential lesson. Thank you. It put words and coached me regarding what I had missed.
As always, a beautiful and insightful article – well done Marc! Particularly relevant to me as recently I “took the bull by the horns” and booked a two week trip to Ethiopia for later this year with an overland travel company based in Australia/NZ. I have travelled with them before to out of the way places and had a great time. Yet each time I go through self doubt how I will cope. Once when I fretted going to Syria (when it was safe to travel) the travel agent asked how I enjoyed a previous trip to India. I reflected and replied “It was great!”. She gave me a long look and replied “Bruce – if you coped with India, you will cope with anything”. I often repeat this phrase to myself to overcome my irrational fears and to make the most of the opportunities this life has given me. And yes, I practice mindfulness!
Margaret Lee says
What if you accepted this moment, and everything and everyone in it (including yourself), as exactly enough?
Easier said than done!
Three years ago after being unemployed for 10 months, I finally landed the job I currently have. However, for the past 3 years, I’ve been on a slow boat to nowhere, with zero growth in this position, valuable skills I’m not using going stale and management having no intentions of investing in the resource they have right in front of them. I’ve been surrendering to accept and be ok with this situation on a daily basis. I’m trying to be ok with the supposed “team” that I’m a part of be guarded, keeping all the tribal knowledge to themselves and having no intentions of mentoring me because it’s job security for them. I want to be ok with the fact that despite me bending over backwards and continually trying to prove my worth, some of my “team” members feel threatened that I’m trying to steal their place in the spotlight which I have absolutely no intention of doing because it’s not my nature to be that petty. I want to be okay with the fact that I don’t have much of a life outside of work because management will not allow me to shift my schedule to an earlier start time so that I can pursue taking care of my health. The worst part of all is that I want to be okay with the fact that no other employers are knocking on my door to hire me.
How might doing so change what you see?
If I could conquer and get over and accept and be okay with all of this, it would be pretty darn awesome.
The only thing I would suggest to you to take some form of comfort or consolation from, is…….you are not alone! We are told this often enough by Marc and Angel…….. there aren’t any real right answers to anything, we are all on our own journeys…. but what would you do, be or go to, if you could (without being confined by judgement or restraint)……. and then work out the way to do that. Good luck and if I were you I would look to get out of the area and job that you are in right now, it is killing you! (Sounds like you are burned out!!!)
Jennifer Reid says
Margaret, I’m just another reader of the blog, but I can’t imagine that your goal should be to pretend everything about your job is enough. I was in a similar job situation, and I think the trick is accept that “it is what it is,” and try to find ways to be less resistant to the people you work with. If you can give up your expectations
of what you think they should be doing instead of what they are doing, you’ll be more content. You can choose to make the job you have be enough for now – it’s paying the bills. Find ways to be happy with your own performance in order to feel fulfilled. Spend less time at work if you can – if you’re not going to be there a long time, pull back. Put that energy into your health, and nurture your own interests, relationships, and job search. Join a gym or a book club. Maybe it’s not my place to make these comments – I just know that frustration you feel. It’s very real. But I’m retired now, and I can look back and see all the energy and emotion I wasted being upset that circumstances and people weren’t different. But in my last years of the job, I started reading
this blog, and I did make quite a bit of progress in changing the way I think.
The people at work didn’t change, but I learned to accept that they never would, that there were limits to my growth there, and that wishing it were different didn’t help one bit. I learned to appreciate the difficulties they had in their positions. Everyone was struggling, actually. I took individual initiative to make my job more interesting and creative. The goal isn’t to say it’s all fine when it’s not, the goal is to make your peace with it, and move on when you can. I wish you the best.
If you are in the present moment you don’t feel as though you could be doing something else-somewhere else that is better?
Being in the moment can be about accepting the beauty around us but, it can also show us that we are just “coping” with our surroundings.
If sounds like you are in an environment that is toxic to you. If talking to your boss about how the culture of your workplace is detrimental to newcomers doesn’t work, I would suggest finding the time to work somewhere else or move to a place where you can do what you are doing AND be happy with the environment.
I don’t know the whole story but from what you have said previously this sounds like the best case scenario for you.
Thank you for reminding me to appreciate every moment of my life.
Lately, I have been so caught up with my future that I forgot to appreciate the gift of my present moment.
To answer your question, speaking from personal experience I think living would be simpler if we all took time to stop and appreciate the things and people that are right in front of us, including the ones looking back at us in the mirror.
Don’t get me wrong, ambition is good,it’s amazing because it helps us appreciate our potential and good graces but in the midst of all that it’s also nice to just stop and actually appreciate one’s journey so far by just telling the the person in the mirror “you have come this far,no matter what happens I want you to remember that you are amazing and you will always be enough.”and the just give your biggest smile yet.
Simply appreciate the beauty right in front of you, including your reflection and what it depicts to you at that moment.
Ninette Lancret Prsts says
The Present is the only reslity in the Universe. It encompass LIGHT AND LIGHT IS THE SOURCE OF CREATION.
LIVING IN THE PRESENT ALIGN US WITH TRUTH IN PERFECT HARMONY
PRESENT IS THE ONLY CONSTANT AND NOTHING EXIST OUTDIDE OF IT.
Powerful insight, the moment is now
Arlene Young says
Very good article a lot to think about and reflect on. Also enjoyed to comments that others have written. I’ m going to sign up for future articles and see what comes up. Thank You.
Just the other evening I was driving with my 15 yo son, and the sunset was a blazing orange. I reached over and touched him, and said, “even at 56, I still can be awed by a sunset!”
I was in the moment, appreciating the beauty, and was leading him to trying to be, too.
Thank you for this article. I must have really needed it because I have been stressed for the last couple weeks of being unemployed. Being in the moment while stressing about being unemployed kind of takes the stress away for a moment. I want to say that when I am outside taking pictures of nature with my camera I definitely am more appreciative of life in general. Maybe I will take the camera out more often so that the stress will go away. Again thank you for the reminder.
B. S. Rao says
Time ceases the moment we start being with it as it turns out. The winding road ends when the real journey begins. For nothing matters when we are with what we are in. Awareness matters most. Rest all cease to be!
Love this! I like that you mentioned being mindful of our unpleasant moments too as it makes the pleasant moments that much sweeter. I live, write and journal about mindfulness and present moment goodness. It has become my best friend. It’s what keeps me happy and content just because. As time is not a renewable resource, each moment is all we have. Whenever I feel overburdened or stressed, I remind myself to pay attention to the “small and the now instead of the big and the wow”. Each moment we are given matters and deserves our full attention.
Awesome simply,&Simply awesome.
Absolutely feeling this article. My big brother called me this a.m. at work and we had this 20 minute convo about what I was up to and laughed about me being high from migraine meds – a lovely moment of being in the now and connection that actually suprised me – often we check with each other on who paid mum’s bills or have you heard from dad etc etc. It was a nice change of pace – I will try to do that more. The past few days I have successfully managed on more than one occasion:
1. to watch full episodes of Friends without simultaneously playing a game on my ipad
2. turn my chair and give a coworker full attention when they pop by to ask a question and resist the urge to keep typing or scrolling
3. talk on the phone with someone and not be doing something else at the same time. Damn you ipad!
4. keep only ONE tab open on my browser to avoid the switching over every time the page slows by even a milisecond.
I will keep you posted on the progress 🙂
Just wanted to wish you guys a great Valentines Day! ?
Sending you lots of ??
I really appreciate this post.
Indeed, I just couldn’t stop myself from smiling uncontrollably after finishing this read.
It was such an incredible read. I attribute this to your high sense of awareness, Marc (and Angel). I can’t explain how much this post has helped me to realise that in life, we become too lost in the past and in the future that we hardly live in the present.
We get lost in our desires that we don’t see the bigger picture – the fact that nothing is constant and believing that everything will fall into place.
We start to lose our original vision – and fail to just dwell in our current emotions and appreciate our circumstances now.
I am really thankful for the post, and this reminder is absolutely essential and something I will practise often for a better life of mine!
To share my story, before I read this post, I was in a rut. Basically, I could not get over the fact that my friends have left me because they felt that they could not relate to me anymore.
I felt really wronged and wanted to hang out with them again, but I’ve come to realise that some things simply can’t be forced anymore – and this setback must’ve risen such that I’ve got the opportunity to thread a different route and know more people this time around.
Thank you. <3
Hello! Ahh the sheer beauty of this conversation brought tears to me eyes! The reminder that beauty is in those moments that we sometimes forget to see, is such a lovely mantra for how to spend each day. I am so happy I got to read this article today.
I know that when I am in the moment amazing things happen and new paths open up. It is the way to truly live and love.
In peace and gratitude,
Great stuff, as always – thanks for sharing.
“The present is not just a stepping-stone—it is the ultimate destination.”
Wow. Thank you. This is one of those statements that hits deep, that you know is going to stick with you when you venture off course. Prompted by having a baby (who is now 17 months old), I have been striving to be present in each moment. For him and for me. This article, that statement…just what I needed to read. Thank you!
This is amazing… It’s incredible and it’s beautiful… I’m in the hardest moment of my life, the love of my life is away in a bad depression condition and I cannot help him and even though I understand what you are saying here, I still feel that everything I’m doing it’s just a temporary distraction, as if I was anestetizing my heart from bad stuff but also from good stuff… And this living is not really living is just a big distraction and nothing more
I found y’all this morning over on iG and got to say love your profile. Reading all of those quotes, life inspiration drops. Came to your page and read this post. Wow! Talk about a beautiful way to start a Sunday morning. Being in the present is something I have failed to do and now I’m working on it. Like you said, mindful awareness is the start. I have come to be in peace with me, first, and everyone else around me. Love your site. Thank you for inspiring us to better ourselves.