Living in the present: #1

Most of us could be a lot happier and get our lives to work a great deal better if we were just able to live in the present moment more than we currently do. It’s very common to have a somewhat dysfunctional or negative approach to the passing of time, and many popular sayings and modes of expression reflect this. There are really only two kinds of problem here:

  • The sense that time is passing us by too quickly, that opportunities are being missed, that not enough has been achieved – it’s all out of control, and we’re getting older and that bit closer to death, which by the way might occur out of the blue at any moment:

– ‘doesn’t time fly? – ‘is it nine o’clock already?’ – ‘where have the years gone?’ – ‘it seems like only yesterday when we were young and in our prime’

  • The sense of time passing too slowly, that life is empty, nothing is happening or things aren’t happening quickly enough:

– ‘time is really dragging by’ – ‘I wish I was older’ (that’s a teenager speaking) – ‘is it only nine o’clock?’ This may be more of an issue among younger generations or people doing a job they’re  not madly enthusiastic about. Surprisingly, both of these responses have an identical cause – diminished ability to experience and take advantage of the present moment. ‘Time passing by too quickly’ is more oriented towards dwelling in and attachment to the past – looking back from the present and identifying unsatisfactoriness or lack. ‘Time passing too slowly’ is excessively oriented towards the future, and wanting it to be here now. Let me ask you: what is, was or will be the most important time in your life? Answer: the present moment is absolutely the most important time, on an ongoing basis. One of those slightly nauseating new-agey sayings addresses this: “The here-and-now is a gift; that’s why it’s called ‘the present’”; nonetheless, there’s a valid point here, however sanctimoniously it has been expressed. The point of power is, indeed, in the present moment. It’s vital to make the most of it. After all, you can never do anything in the past or in the future. When dealing with challenges, living more in the present can really help – while being preoccupied with past or future can really get in the way – indeed, may have in itself generated some of your current difficulties. In the present moment, you can take action to change things that are affecting you from your past, and that will create your future. But if you totally preoccupy yourself with past or future, you disable your present. There was a popular saying in the 1960s: ‘Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life’. Wrong, actually – today is the first day of the rest of your life. Next instalment: what’s so terrible about being concerned with the past or the future?