I have heard that, in order to be truly happy, one must live in the moment. But what does it mean to live in the moment? I hear that phrase everywhere, it seems. Zen masters say it. Friends and family say it. (Even sentimental fleas say it?)

Here’s the thing: I get it. I mean, intellectually, I understand that life is short and that all we have is a fleeting string of moments that pass us by, all in a flash. But what do I do with that knowledge? Most of my attempts have involved focusing on whatever is happening at that particular moment with laser-like attention until I start to feel sort of dizzy. Frankly, I have not found nirvana in this way. I have not managed to find the key to happiness, mine or anyone else’s. Nor have I really managed to do anything beyond giving myself a mild headache.

Still. I think it might have to do with the quality of my attention as opposed to a flaw in the exercise itself. Trying to live in the moment is like trying to force oneself to go to sleep. The harder you try, the less likely it is that you’ll be able to drift off. A most ingenious paradox, I think. Striving for happiness is like trying to pin down your own shadow. As soon as you move to secure it, the shadow moves, too.

I’m not sure I have anything to conclude today. Unless it is simply that I’ll have to be patient with myself in my search for joy. If I am lucky–after all my striving–I will settle down, exhausted, in my chair. I will lean my head back, let go of all effort. And it is then that happiness will creep up like a shy cat, and settle itself at my feet.

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