Living in the Present
The quotes in this article contain amazing insight into the concept of living in the moment. We have all experienced living in the moment but as mentioned above we either attempt to hold onto those things that bring us joy as if we can contain and recapture them or we attempt to avoid the inevitable spending time in fear of the future in the name of surviving rather than enjoying what we have in the present moment. The mind is one of our greatest assets as well as one of our worst enemies.
Because we can think, remember, and analyze we are amazing creatures with unlimited potential. However, this great ability also can be misused to beat ourselves up or to imagine things that could happen to us. Yes, it is a fact that we will all die. But it is also a fact that we can live in peace and harmony in a magnificent world of wonders and mystery.
We often miss the present moment by trying to hold on to something joyful that we experienced in the past.
I remember a moment out camping on a lake when I went down to the edge of the lake to get water late in the evening after dark. The world stood still as I saw the reflection of the cliff on the other side of the lake mirrored in the lake. It created a suspended island in a sea of stars. It brought me to the present moment with an impact I will never forget.
I have longed for that moment from time to time but it was magical and can never be recreated just like I saw it. I can remember with fondness but I cannot feel or sense the real joy that I experienced in the here and now. Life is constantly moving and the joy of living in the present is available for us every day.
I have experienced in close calls the terror of what felt like impending death. Actually I felt more alive at those times because of the recognition of the precious gift of life given to each of us. Although, if I live every day in fear of losing my life or of what might happen, I deny the gift of the present moment and live in a world of imagined harm for the sake of survival.
Balance is the Key
Balancing the past and the future allows us to live in the present. We can learn from moments of great joy or from mistakes we have made and we can plan for the future with a brightness of hope without fear. The present is all that exists in reality and it is the only place we can find true joy and peace.
In his book, Taming the Tiger Within, Thich Nhat Hanh states, “The reason we are foolish enough to make ourselves suffer is that we forget that we and the other person are impermanent. Someday, when we die, we will lose all of our possessions, our power, our family, everything. Our freedom, peace, and joy in the present moment are the most important thing we have. But without an awakened understanding of impermanence, it is not possible to be happy.”
When I was much younger I read nearly all of Carlos Castaneda’s books that were a metaphor for a way of living. His teacher Don Juan taught him that he should live as if death were over his shoulder at any given time. I remember experimenting with living this way and as a result I gained a tremendous vitality and zest for life. I believe that I experienced a better sense of impermanence and it helped me to value every day I am capable of one more breath. I continue to strive to live this way daily.
An example of this comes from personal experience with my friend’s mother, who recently passed away. In her realization of only having a few months left to live she responded with a sacred earnestness towards truly living. She spoke with all of her siblings and lifelong friends. She mended old grudges. She reminisced over her childhood with a revered fondness. She acknowledged her weakness and mistakes with a frank honesty and acceptance.
Even though in those last months she was experiencing intense physical pain she embraced life fully. As Cindy was able to ponder what her mother’s life could have been like if she had always lived as she did in her last few months, she reflected on the beauty of living in the now. Her mother discovered the best within herself as she lived completely in the present moment with integrity and acceptance towards life even in the face of death.
Cindy’s mother’s example is distinctly different from a story I just heard on the news. A woman who had a stroke that resulted with multiple physical disabilities was attempting to sell her soul for two thousand dollars. This story boggled my mind as I considered the worth of a soul and its infinite value.
How sad that even with disabilities and with life’s impermanence she would want to sell something so precious. In contrast to her story is the story of the actor Christopher Reeves who starred as Superman in major motion pictures some years ago. In his real life he turned out to be a quadriplegic due to a fall in an equestrian accident.
He exemplified the true nature of a superman as he accepted his disability and embraced life; he continued to act, direct and produce movies in a wheelchair that he powered with his breath. He also expressed unfailing hope in nerve regeneration by investing time and huge amounts of money in efforts to find a cure. He surely recognized the value of living his life in the present moment as he heroically pursued his life, career and healing even with severe disabilities.
Psychological Time vs. Real Time
Living in the past or future is living in psychological time not living in the present. The chart below illustrates this concept simply by graphically demonstrating where action occurs. Action can only happen in the now. Ruminating about the past or worrying about the future is a movement from the present into the psychological world.
The world of thought can take you many places, however, it is not who you are. Thoughts only exist in the now but they can take you to places you have been and places you have never been, as a result, you live in regret of the past or fear of the future. Through thought you attempt to hold on to the past or you can imagine yourself in a future world that does not in reality exist. We use the chart below in our premium content to help describe the pathway to the present moment.
To start working on living in the present go to Empowered Life Solutions Pathways to the Present Moment Section. The concepts here can be disconcerting to the ego. The ego is built on experience and likes to project itself into the future as if it knows what is best. The ego believes that doing this will be the safest way to live. But living this way only leads to fear based living.
Living in the past and worrying over what you may have done better will also detract from healthy living. Consider that anything you regret cannot be changed. In the present moment you can be sorry and you can try to do better because the present moment is the only place where action can occur. But the question is how long do you want to be sorry for what you may have done?
It may help to set a time for when you are going to be done being sorry. You can also remember your joy but living in the past will never duplicate the joy you can have right now. How long do you want to cling to the joy you had yesterday? Your thoughts are a choice. Thoughts are powerful but they are only thoughts not reality.
The present moment is real. It is a part of the experience you are having right now. The future will likely never happen the way you imagine it and worrying is likely not going to change the outcome of the past or the future. The present is the process of becoming the future. Learn to master your thoughts and you will master your destiny. Live in the present and you will learn to be free of fear. Living in the present is one of the most important healthy living skills that you can acquire.