What does it mean to live in the present? It’s about three questions I will ask you.
By this I mean: Do you spend most of your mental, thinking time in the past, present or future?
- Do you think you live mostly in the past? -Are you living in the past, thinking about it and living there, rather than being focused in the present and what you are doing now? Is your mind focused on the present, or dreaming in the past? What if, if only, why did I do that, all those things that belong to the past?
- Do you think you live in the present most of the time, where you don’t dwell on past or future, but focus on now?
- Do you think you live mostly in the future? By this I mean: Do you spend a lot of your mental time and energy dreaming about the future, all you fantasies, wishes, “what if’s”. I also mean living in the future and using up a huge amount of energy simply dreaming, without purpose? Just whiling the day away until one day you wake up and ask yourself where you have been for the past ten years?
If you followed the conscious awareness module, then by now and hopefully your answer will be: “In the present” because that is THE one place you can dictate what happens to you, right here and right now. It is the only place you have any control over yourself, your thinking, emotions and behaviour. It is THE one and only place.
I am not saying that we don’t need to plan ahead, no, of course not, that would be stupid. What I am saying is that yes we can plan, need to think about stuff that we know will come up for the future, whether that is in an hour, a day, a week or month or year. We need to plan in order to have our lives in order instead of total chaos.
What I am saying is that yes when we know we have a life issue that needs dealing with; that we are present enough to deal with it. We give ourselves office time, or focused time to think about our issue or problem and do so with a focused mind.
Better still it is certainly more effective when we write down our problem and go through the process of finding a solution in a written and conscious way, rather than things swimming round in our head a million times throughout the day.
Sometimes it is possible to work things out in our head, I have done so myself, but differentiating what needs to be done in a structured way, rather than a purely mental way, is helpful.
Living in the present actually gives you opportunities; in fact it opens up a whole world of opportunities.
- It allows you to see things more clearly.
- It helps you have a clear and uncluttered mind
- It allows you to see beauty in the world
- It allows you to see others more clearly
- It allows you to ensure you don’t make mistakes from the past
- It helps you act more appropriately for that particular moment
- It allows you to enjoy your food, your music, your children
- It allows you live rather than exist
- It allows you to focus well enough to deal with a current issue in the best possible way
I could go on forever because the value of living in the present cannot be overstated. Living in the present gives you choices. It helps clear your mind of “CLUTTER” the mental kind.
The thing is this: when we live in the past or future the present can pass us by in every way. All the ways I noted above, and this cheats us of our present and our life. We can’t afford to be robbed of the present moment by living somewhere else in the past or future.
When we live in the past or future, more often than not we can spend hours, waste hours going over and over stuff and still not have resolution. The past is gone, we can’t change it. The future is unknown to a great extent and so going over in our head fruitless and mindless chatter often proves to be a waste of time and energy, especially mental and emotional energy.
There is this:
Productive path of being in the present
- I need to work out how to prepare for my interview in a few days time
- I need to work out a budget because I am short on cash
- I am going to book up a summer holiday while the prices are low
- I need to have a conversation with my friend as we had a falling out. I will sit and work out what I want to say rather than react
- I had an argument with my partner last night and now want to work out my responsibility in it. I don’t want to simply react again and again, I want to work out how to deal with the problem in an effective way by looking at all the factors involved this time, instead of reacting as I usually do from past arguments
- What I did yesterday was wrong, I need to learn from it
- I have a lot going on his coming week so must make a productive plan to ensure I fit everything in. I can’t leave it to chance
- I must book up to see the dentist as my yearly check up is due
- I need to take a good look at what my friend said about my behaviour. She said I was wrong and aggressive so I think I need to quietly work out my own thoughts on this and work out whether she is right and whether I need to apologize or not.
- I need to work out my study plan so I have a plan to follow, otherwise I will simply drift and not study as I need to.
Unproductive thinking in the past or future
- I keep going over the same conversation in my head about the argument I had with my friend. I go over and over it thinking of what I could have said, should have said, what she should have said to me, how she should have reacted to me but now my head is so full of “could have, should have” I can’t think straight, I will go over it again and again even though I am getting angry with myself and her and getting more and more agitated just thinking about it. It is fruitless.. Why did she do this to me, she is to blame for my mood not me
- What will I do if I lose my job next year; I worry about it all the time, get anxious thinking about all the possible scenarios that will happen to me. It’s freaking me out. I go over and over it and it will be hopeless if it happens
- I worry all the time I will get Cancer at some point in my life
- I walk around worrying about the future and thinking about the past
- I seem to live my life in a dreamlike state where I either re-live everything that has happened or think about all the awful things that might happen in the future
- I never focus on the here and now I am always too busy being in the past or future
- I drive myself crazy over what didn’t happen in the past, didn’t find love, didn’t have many friends, didn’t have a good job, didn’t bother to make friends. I am getting so depressed thinking about it
- Everything I think about in relation to the future is negative, I’m just made that way
- I can’t change so this is it
We need to know what is going to be more beneficial to us. Sitting down in a planned way in order to resolve issues? Can we resolve our current issue mentally? Are we wasting precious energy by spending hour upon hour in a place of the past or an unknown future?
Only when we live in the present can we work these questions out.
Of course we need to plan ahead
Of course we need to look at past mistakes and learn from them, but doing so in a conscious way, rather than just reacting to the past.
I am also NOT saying we don’t need down time, play time, spontaneous time, creative time, time spent having fun with friends, yes we certainly do and must. I am not referring to those moments. I am referring to living each day in a dream like state either in the past or future where nothing gets done because we aren’t focused enough, aware enough and therefore don’t have the mental capacity to work life out in a productive way.
Living and reliving past mistakes, past conversations, past pain, future “What if’s” that we have no chance of resolving becomes fruitless and uses up too much emotional and mental energy. If on the other hand we use past experiences to learn from (rather than just going over and over them and beating ourselves up) it’s fine and productive. If we really consciously think about something we will need to do or experience in the future, if we actually and consciously work out exactly how we intend to deal with it, this is a good step. It’s when we waste all our energy thinking in the past or future and just being there going over and over stories in our head that lead to nowhere, only then does it become unproductive.
The module explains how to do all this and how to live in the present in a productive way. This is the aim.
I hope you will enjoy this final module and I hope you have fund the program helpful. You will need to continue practicing and going over the modules until the concepts are well and truly internalized into your psyche.. This takes time, but I think repeatedly watching the videos will help enormously. I know that in CBT (therapy) it takes time and much practice and unfortunately there are no short cuts……