Everything happens in this moment.
Nothing happens tomorrow, or next week or next year. It only happens now.
Everything we genuinely desire happens in the moment right in front of us. When we speak of moments that were life-changing, profound, and filled with meaning, most describe these as moments where time stood still, and there was not past or future. Just the present moment…filled with joy or love or satisfaction. Overwhelmingly, this experience contains a sense of contentment and ease, as there is nothing in the awareness except the present moment. Exquisite!
And yet, research clearly shows that most of us spend our time thinking about future moments or past moments. Most typically, this brings some form of pain and misery. While many human minds have lived in this pain for decades, they exude misery and yet deny their misery. To others (except their miserable comrades) this misery is obvious.
As a rule, excess time spent in future moments produces anxiety and stress. And time spent lingering in the past generally tends to create sadness or depressive feeling, as most of us will reflect upon moments that make us angry, frustrated, hurt, or guilty.
The Obstacles to Enjoying This Moment…and Then the Next…and the Next…
There are very real obstacles to living in a more present manner, focused on the now. Here are a few:
1. It Sounds So ‘New-Age’ and Unproductive
Yes, it does! For some, just reading this will evoke the thought that I am advocating some over-simplified approach to living and perhaps spent too much time consuming some mind-altering substances. Not true.
This concept is as old as humanity, and every religion has practices to calm the worried mind to become more present. And, there is nothing unproductive in being present. It is simply staying aware of the moment to absorb all there is available in that moment.
2. Multi-tasking is Over-Valued
Despite considerable research on this topic, multi-tasking is highly endorsed to be more productive. Yet, this does not lead to more production, but rather less.
More germane to this discussion is the angst created by the multi-tasking mind, always thinking of how to fill every second with some other activity. Even if no activity is available, then there must be something to think about…so calm is experienced.
3. Preparation is Confused with Worry.
Worry is worry, and this is misery. Preparation is preparation, and this is useful and leads to settling the mind.
Too often we embrace worry as necessary, to fulfill our role as a parent, employer, or team member. It is not necessary.
Preparation is often necessary. Once done, we can relax and review our plan perhaps again tomorrow. But we need not worry once prepared. Instead, we can return to be present.
4. We Are Addicted and In Denial to…
Many of you can guess the answer. It’s our phones, social media, the news, and the constant engagement in what’s happening ‘out there.’ For many, we can’t put our phones down. If we do, we are thinking about what we are missing.
Our minds, and thus our lives, are being conditioned to always have something in front of us that captures the attention of the mind. Research over the last ten years is proving that we are training our children to have less and less ability to sustain attention on one moment by exposing them to this barrage of moving images and sounds. And if you notice, there is no real happiness after these activities in your home. Your kids are happier. Only the pointer to the growing addiction, as they seek more and more.
The same is true for adults of course. We see it everywhere, with more of us turning to our phones rather than having a conversation…taking in our children…or just absorbing the beauty of a falling leaf.
I invite you to notice how often you are pulled from ‘this moment’ into a moment over which you have no control, and little meaningful input when your phone pings you. And even if meaningful, is it more important than just enjoying this moment? Sometimes perhaps, but let’s pay attention and find out.
5. The ‘Miss Out on Something’ Syndrome.
I often hear my clients mention their fear of missing out on something. This is particularly epidemic among parents, not wanting their children to miss out. It’s a bizarre idea, as we simply cannot do it all. We are always missing out on much, much more that we can do. If we chase this, it is truly a wormhole of infinite misery where there is no end…just more chasing.
The mind can be caught in this future worry, constantly looking to ensure that nothing is missed. And yet in this rush, we see that every experience is missed. Nothing is fully embraced or enjoyed in the rush to the next moment.
But let’s be clear: There is no problem in seeking awesome experiences. This is good. Just be clear that when the mind does not accept this moment, this experience, as enough…it will seek more.
How can you determine when enough is enough? It’s simple: Can you stay present during all this activity? Are you at ease, relaxed, and enjoying the process? If so, then it’s all good. If not, perhaps notice how often your awareness is not in the moment where you find yourself. If it’s somewhere else…you are somewhere else.