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
There is no distance on this earth as far away as yesterday -- Robert Nathan
Nothing has happened in the past, it happened in the Now; Nothing will ever happen in the future;
it will happen in the Now -- Eckhart Tolle
Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness -- James Thurber
Have you found yourself undervaluing your hard won accomplishments after you have achieved them -- being dissatisfied and wanting more? Is there always a need in you to be the best, the smartest, the prettiest to get the attention you need?
Are you a habitual worrier -- a "what if" kind of person? Do you find yourself saying all too often "if only I had done things differently"? Does your mind tend to wander into the past, carrying heaviness of remorse, disappointments, pain, and suffering? Do you find yourself projecting fear and suffering into your future? Do you anticipate problems even when things are going well?
Well, we are human. We have been there. But the important thing is to discover the power we have to minimize such negativity. To liberate our consciousness from the dark side, the first and foremost thing is to recognize these debilitating patterns that cause misery and undue suffering and actively help free ourselves.
As a start, notice that all of the above ruminations have to do with living in the past or in the future. And not only that; they are a form of nonstop chatter in our brain -- thoughts filled with judgment (self-imposed torments) that we live over and over again, and they continue to attract more such thoughts.
We are talking to ourselves endlessly; we are not listening, seeing, being; we have nothing to think about other than our thoughts; we are not in relationship with reality. We confuse the world as it is with the way we think about it, talk about it, and describe it. We can let this chatter of a reactive mind that does not "shut up" control us, or we can through awareness take the necessary steps to being unstuck.
Here are tips about living in the present that can be helpful:
1. To keep a check on fear based instincts/anticipations and reactions around them, live in the present.
Freedom and peace is in the now -- but not by avoiding the dark thoughts that creep up (when we try to
quiet our mind, we just disturb it all the more) or by suppressing them, but by seeing them for what they
are: just noise. For example, when our ego starts telling us that we are not attractive enough, smart
enough, or good enough, view the "noice" as thoughts spinning out of control in our head. We can bring
our mind back to the reality of the present, perhaps with some catch phrase like "now is what matters" or
"now is it."
2. Staying in the present is directly experiencing, i.e., giving profound attention to the moment we are
in. Mindful breathing from deep within our body (diaphragmatic breathing) can further reinforce that
sense of presence. Focus and draw from the process a relaxation response. The mind must flow like
the breath if we are to remain consistently present and not mired in distractions: bills to pay,
appointments to make -- the list goes on and on.
3. When a distraction butts into the middle of staying present, we can come back to the breath -- inhale
and release our exhale to unbind the shackles of the past and anxieties of the future. The constancy of breath can create the constancy of presence for us.
4. When we are in the moment, we have a better focus and things flow naturally out of us.
We will also feel centered, relaxed, and do what we are doing more easily since there is no interference by
"noise." As dance legend Giampiero Giannico has noted: The drama we create in our head can cause anxieties
and fears that impede the free flow of our creative energy. We are in essence surrendering our power to create. A heightened sense of awareness will unlock our freedom to explore challenges that lie beyond our comfort zone.
5. Living in the moment is not passing through the moments on the way to somewhere else; we are
then missing those moments and in essence, letting life pass us by. We must keep in mind that the past
can't be changed. It's done, set in stone, immutable, immovable. We can change our relationship to the
past, but staying there is simply ruminative and can be destructive. Anticipating the future is also a
futile exercise; no matter how much we like to convince ourselves otherwise, we can't really control the
direction in which things will go. We can set an intention, but keep in mind that the universe has a way
6. Living in the present does not mean that we should not plan for the future. On the contrary, if we
live in the present moment, we are in the best possible space to plan for the future. Have you been in a
situation where you regret a decision that you made under pressure? When we think back now, we may
find that the right decision may have been quite obvious except that at the moment we couldn't see it.
We possibly made a faulty decision because we were probably NOT in the present moment. We were
probably projecting some future scenario that cluttered our mind. Being conscious of the present moment and
living now is the productive space we can be to plan for the future.
7. Progress in getting to our objective/intention may seem excruciatingly slow. But we must try not to
get fixated on not having it and wanting to get it. Attachment muddles our clarity while pulling us into a
stressful state of mind. The mind must flow. It is this release that brings freedom. Once we release the
attachment and focus on being grateful for what we have in the moment, progress will seem to happen
naturally. Also, when we focus on the positive now, we'll feel that happiness that we may have thought
we needed to chase.
8. Living in the present is accepting life as it is now, not as how you wish it would have been. You can
then forgive yourself for the mistakes you have made and you can have peace in your heart knowing that
everything that should happen will happen. Each time we mindfully let go of thoughts about how
life should be and enjoy life as it is, we change our brain, making the habit of mindfulness easier and easier.
9. Frustration in the course of challenging ourselves is bound to happen. But keep in mind that during
the times when we feel most frustrated with our perceived lack of progress is when we may be on the
verge of a breakthrough. Challenging times are there to help us grow.
10. The reward is in the journey. Take this scenario for instance. Have you noticed that when you reach
a goal, it is not as exciting as you thought it would be? Do you remember how excited and exuberant
you were pursuing the goal? What does that suggest? In the journey you were instilled with a sense of
purpose which in itself is a fulfillment. But paradoxically the end you envisioned as making you happy
was not as fulfilling. Those present moments, i.e., the activity of getting there, are thus ultimately what
In conclusion, if we are hoping for things to be other than they are, constantly wondering how or why something
happened or how to fix it, we are lost. The opportunity for transformation is when we enter deeply into our experience
and choose to use it wisely. If circumstance cannot be changed then we can change our attitude toward them. We
may not be able to control the wind, but we can adjust our sails. We can either blame others or we can relax into each moment as it arises. Once we pass through the “fire” of challenges and chaos amidst us and find peace through inner awareness, we are likely to come out with gold on the other side. And as Zen teachers would say, the more we develop such awareness the closer we will be to "nirvana" -- the paradise of peace and higher wisdom.