Several years ago, I had a bad accident when I smashed my hand up in an outboard engine, and ended up spending several months in and out of hospital while attempts were made to keep my right ring finger.
During one of those periods in hospital, I was placed in an orthopaedic ward with some elderly patients who had undergone knee or hip replacements.
Over a couple of days, I noticed that the old gentleman in the bed opposite, who had had a knee replacement, was remarkably calm and unstressed, unlike many patients who were trying to come to terms with what would happen once they were outside the care of the hospital. His peacefulness fascinated me – why was he so unstressed at the conditions he was in?
He told me that he had been a tail gunner in Lancaster bombers during the war. The attrition rate of tailgunners was particularly high amongst bomber crews because of the comparatively unprotected position they occupied in their planes, and were often the first to be injured or die in a battle. He had been so completely terrified, and seen so many of his fellow tailgunners lost in action, that he made a choice one day that life was too short to worry about anything. Since the war, he had enjoyed a happy life, and now was genuinely relaxed about the major surgery he was undergoing. He had no concerns for the future, or regrets about the past.
I found him a remarkable person to talk to. He had nothing to prove to anyone. He was a beacon of peacefulness, and was completely content with himself. He also had a very calming effect on others in the ward who talked to him.
He was (and as far as I know, still is) an example of someone who had learned to deal with only his current situation, or putting it another way, live only in the moment.
Choosing to live in the moment is often an outcome for people who have endured extreme trauma in their lives.
The challenge for the rest of us is to see if we can adopt the same practice without having to experience the trauma.