“Live in the present moment”! How many of us would roll our eyes in annoyance of hearing that overused statement again? We heard it so many times that we often don’t even stop and think about it. But we really, really should.
Although it has become a popular topic in recent years, living in the present is not just a trendy lifestyle tip. Focusing on the present moment is a way of leading a fulfilled, happy, less stressful life that is, in fact, backed up by good science.
But instead of listing all the reasons why mindfulness makes life so much better, which you can read HERE, let’s first focus on what is real.
You Already Know How To Live In The Present
Remember the time when you were a kid. Can you recall how you noticed everything back then? The smell of the grass, cracks on the sidewalk, moving clouds on the sky, smell of new books… You were in the now back then almost all the time. Your mind wasn’t overfilled with worries and plans for the future or regrets from the past. You just existed, paid attention to your surrounding, and fully participated in your life.
So, you already know how living in the now looks and feels like. The goal is to bring back that mindset as often as possible in your daily life.
Of course, you might argue that those were the times when you had fewer responsibilities, and you would be right. As you’re growing up, you are facing more complicated situations, and that requires some advanced planning, learning from your mistakes, making priorities and balancing many different areas of life. However, all this doesn’t nearly mean that experiencing the present moment is less possible. In fact, in reality, it is the only possible time to live in. Literally.
The Only Time That Exists Is NOW – The Eternal Present Moment
You’re reading this text now. You are breathing now. If the future you’re worried or excited about comes, it can do so only in the form of the present moment, just like the one right now. It is not something mysterious that will come in a spectacular way.
Time as we know it (minutes, hours, months, days) is actually an illusion – we only use it for practical purposes. As Albert Einstein said: “The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”. Think about it – there is never a time when you are living in anything other than this ongoing moment.
And yet, you often miss it. You’re often going past your own life, trapped in your head. You’re maybe making plans for the next week. Or you’re replaying the same conversation from yesterday over and over in your head, thinking about what you said wrong. Or you’re so excited about some future event that all you can think about is that and you just want it to come as soon as possible. And then you’re parking your car and have no idea how you drove to work; you were so lost in your thoughts that you don’t remember the actual drive. You just missed to experience your life and went through a part of it on autopilot.
Don’t Let Your Wandering Mind Steal Your Time And Joy
According to Harvard University study, we spend about 47% of our waking time thinking about things other than what we’re doing or what’s going on, and most of this daydreaming doesn’t make us happy. Authors of the research say: “Human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind”.
A similar conclusion comes from Eckhart Tolle, the author of the best-selling book “The Power of Now”: “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry – all forms of fear – are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of non-forgiveness are caused by too much past and not enough presence”.
The tricky thing is – in our busy world that demands constant multitasking, it can be difficult to remember to be mindful about what is happening in the present moment. However, it is important for becoming truly connected with yourself and leading a fulfilled life. Present is already here. It is going on while you’re chasing your “ideal” life or beating yourself up for past mistakes. While you’re occupied with how your life could look like, your actual life is happening.
The disappointing thing is – there is no extraordinary event outside of you that will suddenly change you and make you less unfocused and absent. You need to make a conscious decision to pay attention to what is happening in the now and remember to remind yourself to do it every day. It’s that simple. When you notice you wandered off, just gently get back to the now.
The encouraging thing is – it becomes easier with practice. Once you train your mind to operate in the “present mode”, it becomes a habit and you’ll do it almost effortlessly.
Of course, all this doesn’t mean that you should completely ignore your past or your future. It’s important to learn from your past experiences and plan for the future in order to reach your goals. But don’t let these two steal the now from you. Know where you want to go, but be present on every step you take toward it.