What does it mean to live fully in the present moment? It means that your awareness is completely centered on the here and now. You are not worrying about the future or thinking about the past. When you live in the present, you are living where life is happening. The past and future are illusions, they don’t exist. As the saying goes “tomorrow never comes”. Tomorrow is only a concept, tomorrow is always waiting to come around the corner, but around that corner are shadows, never to have light shed upon, because time is always now.
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha
Why living in the present will change your life.
If you’re not living in the present, you’re living in illusion. That seems to a be a pretty good reason to live in the present, doesn’t it? But how often are we worrying about things that have yet to come, how often do we beat ourselves up for mistakes that we’ve made, no matter how much time has passed? The answer is too much. Not only will living in the present have a dramatic effect on your emotional well-being, but it can also impact your physical health. It’s long been known that the amount of mental stress you carry can have a detrimental impact on your health. If you’re living in the present, you’re living in acceptance. You’re accepting life as it is now, not as how you wish it would have been. When you’re living in acceptance, you realize everything is complete as it is. You can forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made, and you can have peace in your heart knowing that everything that should happen will.
“If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.” -Unknown
Start living, stop conceptualizing.
The worst part about living in the past or the future is that you’re giving up your personal power. If you’re not living now, you’re giving up your life. You’re surrendering your power to create. If there are changes you’d like to make in life, it’s best to do it now. If you’re living in the past, you can’t do anything about it, it’s gone. If you’re worrying about the future, you’re living somewhere that doesn’t exist. It hasn’t happened yet. If you want to change your life, the only place you can do it is in the present. But first you need to accept life as it is. When it comes down to it your mind is the only thing keeping you from living in the present.
“There is no distance on this earth as far away as yesterday.” ~Robert Nathan
Why is it difficult to live in the present?
There are many people that can give you their opinion or their advice on why it is difficult to live in the present. Some will say it is because we live in abstraction, we live in the world of symbols. Some might say it is because we have awareness of the passage of time, or the illusion of time, it produces anxiety because we can look at the past and predict the future. I think all of these answers are partially true. Though the biggest reason we don’t live in the present is because we don’t shut up. That is, we constantly talk to ourselves. As Alan Watts aptly put it, “if we are talking all of the time, we never hear what anyone else has to say. In the same way, if we are talking to ourselves all the time, we are never listening, we have nothing to think about other than thoughts, and are never in relationship with reality”.
As humans, we love to create stories. We love to listen to other people stories and compare them with our own. This is beautiful. In a way we could say that the entire universe is based on one collection of stories, a cosmic story. The problem is when we feel the need to create a story about everything, we are living entirely in the world of symbols. We confuse the world as it is, with the way we think about it, talk about it and describe it. Reality though, is not a concept. When we realize this we are able to return to a state of peace and stillness.
A new way, 5 ways to start living in the present:
In order for us to live in the present, does this mean we have to give up our innate desire to write our personal story and share it with others? No, we shouldn’t trade one extreme for another. What we really want, is to find balance. If you follow these simple tips you can start living in the present, and start experiencing reality as it is.
1. Don’t try to quiet your mind
The hardest thing to do when living in the moment is, or trying to simply witness life, is to not have the urge to try to quiet your mind. When we try to quiet the mind, we just disturb it all the more. Instead, simply witness your thoughts as if they are pure sound. Don’t try to judge your thoughts, there are no good thoughts or bad thoughts. Simply witness them as if they were noise.
2. You are not your thoughts
Too often we identify ourselves with our thoughts, we actually believe we are the dialogue inside our mind. However, we are much more than just our thoughts, we are the force that moves through our mind, spirit and body. Knowing this helps us overcome our fear of quietness and silence, we can have peace knowing that when our minds are quiet, we are not losing touch with ourselves.
3. Breathe, you’re alive
For a moment I’d like you to stop reading and simply pay attention to your breath. I’ll wait…
As you focus your attention on your breath, you’ll notice that your breath is neither voluntary or involuntary. It is something that you do, but at the same time something that “does you”. When you focus your attention on your breath, you come back into relationship with reality, because like breath, reality is both something you do and something that “does you”. It is co-creative. Practice conscious breathing to bring your mind back to the present.
4. Music for meditation
There is a lot of great music made to assist with meditation. My personal favorite though is Stan Richardson’s Japanese flute music. Every time I play it I can feel it’s peaceful energy wash over me. Music made for meditation can help us bring our attention back to the present and clear our mind.
5. Practice mindfulness
This isn’t so much of a tip as it is a staple in living in the present. Practicing mindfulness means we practice our awareness in all our actions. Whether we are washing dishes or tying our shoes, our mind is focused on whatever we are doing. We are not thinking about the bills that we have to pay, or the phone call we need to make when we get to the office. We are simply living in the moment.
I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any more tips or insight into how to improve mindfulness and awareness of the present, please leave your comment below. Thank you for reading!