Way back in my younger years, I was a pretty decent track athlete. However, I live with one major regret that I rarely voice. I waited. I hesitated. I didn’t seize the moment.

During my freshman year of high school, my coach asked me to be part of the mile relay team with three juniors. I agreed to do it and the team made state. We had a good chance of placing. I was the third leg. Our first two gals did an excellent job of running and then it was my turn. I ran hard but I remember thinking “Save it for the finish.” So I didn’t explode out or put on the speed right away. I waited. And then I didn’t have it. I recall coming down that homestretch, fighting for the place with the girl next to me, knowing I had less than 100 meters before handing off the baton. I remember thinking “Our last runner is fast, and she will make up for the distance I lose.”

So I gave up. I quit trying to stay ahead of that girl.

I still ran, but I gave in to the jelly-legs and pain. I let that girl pass me. And then another girl. Heck, maybe even another. We wouldn’t have won the gold but I firmly believe we would have placed if I’d simply seized the moment rather than succumbing to my negative thoughts.

How often do you find yourself waiting, hesitating because something from your past or anxiety about your future  seeps into your thoughts?

Having recently moved, I can’t wait to sell our old house and only have one mortgage. I can’t wait to have boxes unpacked. I can’t wait to make some new friends. I can’t wait for Lent (is that strange?) because I love fish fries and I want to talk to adults. I can’t wait for my kids to grow up so I can stop fighting and arguing with them every morning in order to make it to school on time.

The list goes on. It’s usually somewhere around the thoughts of my kids growing up that I manage to slow myself down enough to remind myself that I’m “waiting” too much and missing out on the NOW. It’s a difficult lesson. Even when I’m looking forward to something, I’m “waiting” and focusing on the future. When I have regrets, such as the track relay, I’m living in the past. Either way, time is slipping through my fingers. Either way, I have the ability to seize this moment, to DO something with this time.

There’s a massive movement happening right now called mindfulness. Simply put, it is the practice of being present in the moment. It doesn’t need to involve pretzel-like sitting poses or odd moaning sounds. It’s breathing and being fully engaged in whatever you are doing.

Some people focus on their breathing. It’s a very calming technique when mastered. It’s also difficult to master. I, for one, get all antsy and worry about whether or not I’m doing it right…which isn’t mindful. It’s okay to get distracted; simply bring yourself back to the breathing.

The likelihood is that you already practice mindfulness and you are so good at it, you don’t notice. It’s the act of being totally involved. Some people crochet. Some ride horses. Some run. Some hunt. During these activities, everything else is blocked out and the person is fully engaged in the activity.

Try this in-the-moment breathing technique: Get comfortable. Put one hand on your belly and one on your chest. Take a breath. Your diaphragm (belly) will inflate, not your chest. Breathe in through your nose for five counts, then out through your mouth for a longer count (how long can you make it?). Do this over about five times, which is approximately one minute. How was your focus? Did thoughts interrupt? Were you able to push those thoughts aside and refocus? Did you get frustrated? What other things did you notice happening at the same time as your breathing (such as noises, touch, smells)?

Work to be and live in THIS moment. The past is behind you, the future isn’t known. You are here NOW.

Jessica McCaslin

Jessica is a mom who is working outside the home part-time and who is learning to cope with the ever-changing daily challenges of full-time parenthood. She graduated with her Master's degree in community counseling from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2005, and works with a diverse mental health population. Jessica resides in Central Nebraska with her husband and four children on the family ranch.