All the philosophers, great religions and spiritualities encourage us to live in the present moment – to be here NOW. And yet it seems to be a basic part of the human condition to cast our consciousness into the future or the past. To some people, it appears to be very difficult to live in the present. Why is this so and how can we move beyond this tendency and learn to live in the present moment?
The Human Condition
Human beings are the only animals who appear to have the ability to live in the future and in the past. Whether this is a blessing or a curse is debatable. What is not debatable is not only our ability, but our propensity, to relive the past and dream about the future. We can imagine what it was like years ago and what it might be like in years to come. We study the past. We predict the future. It appears to be hard wired into humanity to do so.
For many researchers, there appears to be evidence that the reliving of the past – the sentimentality of our memories – results in our discovery of the meaning to life. At the same time the process of injecting oneself into the future in one’s imagination also results in our discovery of the meaning of life. Again, we appear to be the only animal looking for meaning in life as opposed to just living life.
Unfortunately, living in the past can cause depression, and living in the future can cause anxiety. Living in the now makes you more mindful and calm.
Tips For Living In The Now
So how do we go about living in the present when all our instincts lead us into reliving the past or dreaming of the future?
- Simplify Your Life: One of the best, unforeseen consequences of simplifying our lives is that it has allowed us to begin living our lives in the present. Eliminating non-essential possessions has freed us from many of the emotions associated with past lives that were keeping us stuck. And clearing our home has allowed us the freedom to shape our lives today around our most important values.
- Forgiveness: If you are harboring resentment towards another human being because of past hurts, choose to forgive and move on. The harm was their fault. But allowing it to impact your mood today is yours.
- Gratitude: Soak in as much of today as you possibly can – the sights, the sounds, the smells, the emotions, the triumph, and the sorrow. Be grateful you can feel all of these.
- Do What You Love: If you just survive the workweek constantly waiting for the next weekend “to get here,” you are wasting 71% of your life (5 out of 7 days). There are two solutions: (1) find a new job that you actually enjoy (it’s out there), or (2) find something that you appreciate about your current career and focus on that rather than the negatives.
- Let Go Of Worry: You can’t fully appreciate today if you worry too much about tomorrow. Realize that tomorrow is going to happen whether you worry about it or not. And since worry has never accomplished anything for anybody, redirect your mental energy elsewhere.
- “I Think Therefore I Am”: You are not your thoughts. No matter what you have been taught, you are NOT your thoughts. We are much more than that. We are thought, spirit, emotion and body. This means that when you quiet your mind, you do not lose yourself. Quieting your mind is essential to learning to live in the moment. Don’t be afraid to quiet your mind.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness is about being in touch with and aware of everything we do and everything around us. Mindfulness is the essence of living in the moment. No matter how trivial the action, mindfulness means we are focused on just that. If you are putting on socks, your mind is only thinking about putting on socks, not your 9:00 A.M. meeting. This is what it means to live in the moment.
The time is NOW.
Live in THIS moment and no other.
Be present to the moment and all that is going on in it. This is the antithesis of multi-tasking. You can’t practice mindfulness and multi-tasking at the same time.
If you are watching the news and typing a paper at the same time, which of them are you focused on?
Mindfulness requires that all of your attention is focused on the one thing you are doing in this moment. If you are doing two things at once, which one are you focusing on? This might be the biggest challenge of living in the moment.
Remember this if you want to live in the moment: Simplify your life, forgive any wrongs, express gratitude for all you have, are and know, let go of worry, understand that you are more than your thoughts, and finally, practice mindfulness.