People talk a lot about "living in the moment", but what does it mean, why would you want to and how do you do it?

Living in the moment means being aware of the things that are happening in that moment, in yourself, in your environment, while letting go of all other thoughts and cares. Most people have an internal voice, which the Chinese call the "monkey mind", due to all the thoughts chattering away all the time.

Practising living in the moment slows down the "monkey thoughts" and allows you to experience your body, your feelings, your nature and Nature around you. It means that instead of being ruled by your emotions, you can just become aware of your emotions and feel them, without them driving you to impulsive actions. Over time, you learn to be who you are, truly yourself.

From a martial point of view, over time, this slowing down of the monkey mind, means that if you are ever unfortunate enough to be in a situation, then it will seem as if time slows down for you, so that you can calmly deal with the situation - and that calmness can be enough by itself to defuse a would-be attacker, since they are expecting a fight-or-flight response and you aren't giving them that at all.

Now how to achieve it:
Practise meditation - tai chi meditation is done standing up, not sitting down and it is usually called something other than meditation, like "chi kung", "qigong", "five elements" or something else. All of them teach you to focus on your breathing and on your tantien, combined with either movement or stillness. Whatever you are doing (moving or still), focussing on feeling your tantien and your slow breathing is the key. Your mind *will* wander - don't fight it, let thoughts pass through, then bring your mind back to your tantien and your breathing and continue with your movements (or stillness), as your instructor tells you.

Have patience and don't worry if you don't get it - it takes a while and the monkey mind is always waiting to butt in. Just keep trying and it will come. One of the things you can do to help, is to count the number of whatever movements, then gradually over time it will become possible to just be aware of the tantien and the breathing, without needing the counting as well. Then you really will be living in the moment in your meditation and gradually it will become possible to experience these moments at other times as well (*)

When I started this, I had 4 thoughts at once - the one at the front of my mind, the next in row pushing forward on its heels and 2 more emerging as well - you can see I used to be quite hyper! Practising focussing on chi kung meditation has really slowed my thoughts right down, so now I'm a far calmer person and take my time to enjoy experiencing all the things life has to offer :)

(*) A while ago, I was surprised to find time slowing down for me - I was letting in the parents with their kids, after lunch, when a guy with no kid and mad staring eyes appeared at the gate and looked ready to start something violent. In pre-tai chi days, this would have made me extremely nervous, to say the least! But since I'd been practising breathing, I found myself experiencing this event in slow motion - I had time to think "if he goes left, I'll do X, if he goes right, I'll do Y, if he comes straight for me, I'll do Z". In the event, he was so taken aback by my calmly looking at him, thinking in a calm way and not reacting fight-or-flight style, that he ran off - best possible result! Achieved through meditation - hah! :)