We’re all familiar with the ancient spiritual teaching that advises us to live in the present moment if we want to experience true happiness. However, you might have asked yourself what does it really mean to “live in the now” or to “be present” and is it even possible. You may have also wondered if there are consequences to being present. Will I not be able to enjoy my good memories from the past or not plan adequately for my future? Fortunately, living in the present does not mean losing any element of the mind. Being present instead offers freedom of the mind. Even though it may be difficult to do given cultural and social influences, it is indeed possible to be present a little bit each day with concentrated practice. Eventually, with enough desire and intention, you may reap so many benefits that it becomes easier and easier to sustain over long periods of time. The foundation of a spiritual life is presence and inside of this connected place within yourself, others and the universe, restraints are lifted and everything and anything become possible.
The best way to understand the concept of living in the present is to remember our childhood. For children, the present moment is the only true reality. I’m sure you can all recall not wanting to go to bed because you were enjoying being awake (living) so much. Happy kids run and play and laugh, approaching each moment as it comes. Adults on the other hand live mostly inside their minds, either preoccupied by the past or worried about the future. Anxiety and fear are at there all time high and we find it difficult to really be grateful and happy with what we have today. Even when we achieve our goals, it’s not too long before we are wishing for something more. Part of the reason why these milestones are ultimately unsatisfying is because we are searching outside of ourselves for something that will bring fulfillment, happiness and satisfaction to us. However, what we often times forget is that we already have everything we need today in this moment to cultivate the experience we desire. It’s the constant search that is an illusion and ultimately ends in regret and robs you of the experience of real joy.
If you think about it all decisions, emotions, thoughts, feelings and actions happen only in the present moment. There is nothing you can do to change the past and there is no amount of worry about the future that can benefit you today. Too often we let our past experiences determine our present actions, which in many cases is a disservice to both others and ourselves close to us. Each moment is a new moment and even though it may appear to be the same as something we have seen or experienced before, this too is only an illusion. By choosing this viewpoint we often create repetitive patterns in our lives rather than evolve our conscious awareness. Although learned behavior can be beneficial for our survival and even success, it is not necessary to always draw upon past experience when taking action in the present. Knowing when the past serves you and when it doesn’t takes a certain level of presence to accomplish and is one of the main benefits of living in the now.
The same holds true for moving towards the future. Yes, we were born to create and its part of the game of life, involving ourselves in projects that will allow us to accomplish something in life. However, setting goals to improve the current circumstances doesn’t keep us in the present moment. Instead we find ourselves not enjoying what we have and thinking that it will be better when what we currently have changes. This is the way that goal setting becomes counterproductive to really living. A better way to approach what we consider “negative circumstances” in our life is to focus on what we are grateful for rather than what we don’t have. Even if it takes all of your will to do so, searching within to find and appreciate the happiness that already exists will not only allow you to approach what you want to change from a new vantage point, it will also open up possibilities that you were not able to see before.
In part 2, I will give you some specific practices you can partake in for living in the present moment.
Published On: May 15, 2013