When I was an undergraduate at Syracuse University, I was introduced to the movie “Dead Poets Society.” One of Robin Williams’ best films (in my opinion) and a coming-of-age film that transcends time for young men looking to find who they are, find the courage, and find a path in life.
This movie popularized the expression “Carpe Diem,” which means “Seize the Day.” When I first heard this Latin phrase, I needed inspiration and a change in my life. I was an angst-filled adolescent in the throes of trying to move forward in life while holding on to a past that disappointed me and filled me with anger.
When Robin Williams’ character, Mr. Keating, whispered the words to his class, “Carpe Diem...Seize the day…” I was frozen. I felt a weight lift from my body that I had been carrying since childhood. The weight consisted of blame, sadness, and shame. It was replaced with a sliver of joy and relief. Just a slice, for a moment.
The feeling was temporary, and the thoughts and feelings I had been harboring came back, but the simple words kept reappearing in my mind. It wasn’t until many years later, when I was in my Ph.D. program, and I was lucky enough to help start a Mindfulness Club at the Bowling Green State University, that I realized how to practice seizing the day.
I learned that when practicing mindfulness, one could:
- Find those moments of relief
- Practice the act of letting go of thoughts that weighed down the body and mind that only point to repeated exhaustion mixed with devastating feelings of despair
- Move forward step by step by step by ironically practicing the act of sitting still and listening to your thoughts
- Do something in a purposely way and be present with anything or one thing
- Foster appreciation for that single moment; in other words, seize the day
A lot in my life has changed since my young adolescent eyes first watched “Dead Poets Society.” However, the simple lesson of appreciating the moments we live in, and the days we are alive, have never been more vital than they are today.
I could probably credit this movie with my desire to explore and research the concept of mindfulness, which I continue to dive deeper and deeper into it today.
Take time to sit still. Take time to appreciate moments in your life. Take time to smell the flowers, breathe the air, and be aware of where, when, and what you are right now. Take time to seize the day.
With compassion, kindness, and carpe diem.
Co-Host of the Act To Live Podcast
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