Living in the present moment has become somewhat of a buzzword recently, but what does it actually mean? Let me take you first through what it means to be living in the past and living in the future.
Living in the past
You may be living in the past because it feels familiar and safe or it may seems as though your life was simpler, happier, easier or worse you revisit the past fuelled by a sense of regret or disappointment. Nostalgia has its place – whether it be reminiscing about an important event in your life like your wedding day or that amazing trip overseas. But nostalgia becomes unhealthy when we start to obsesses over how things could have been if we made a different choice at the time. Living in the past is not living at all and will undoubtedly lull you into a depressed state.
The issue with living in the past is that it allows you to hide from dealing with current issues in your life and it denies you of the opportunity to fully enjoy the present. Two key things will help you to release the past; acceptance and forgiveness. Accept that you cannot change the past no matter how many hours you spend thinking about it (trust me I’ve done the leg work!). Forgive yourself and others for preceived wrongs and let it go because no matter how long you hold onto it you can never change what has already been done. Whatever has happened has happened exactly as it should have, whether or not we can fully understand why at this point in time. The sooner we can release the past, the sooner we can enjoy this present moment and this is where the magic happens.
Living in the future
When we fixate on the future we set ourselves on a dangerous path of future tripping. There is a distinction between considering your future by setting goals and creating a game plan to achieve them, and becoming anxious over things that have not yet even happened and may or may not happen. If you are stressed, anxious or fearful then chances are you are living in the future.
The ego will encourage you to waste countless hours being anxious about the future and its an easy trap to fall into. But when we do this we are not living in the present moment and can miss fully experiencing things that are actually happening in our lives. Next time you find yourself future tripping ask yourself this: can I control or change the situation I am stressed and anxious about? 9 times out of 10 the answer is not so just let it go and enjoy the only moment that is certain and that is the present moment.
If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the moment. – Lao Tzu
The present moment
Ok so we know that living in the past or the future are not conducive to living our lives to the fullest. But there is another layer that also holds up back from being fully present, that is so called “busyness”. Picture this – you are sitting on the couch, watching television with your iPhone in one hand checking facebook and talking to your partner who is sitting next to you. Sound familar? I will admit it, this is something of which I am guilty.
I am a recovering multi-tasker, something which I used to boast about but I am beginning to understand that this is not something that encourages living in the present moment. We cannot fully enjoy the present moment doing a million things at once. Ask yourself if you are truly busy or distracting yourself with 20 different tasks all of which are not receiving a 100% of your attention. There is nothing wrong with doing one task at a time and I think you will find you complete tasks more efficiently and at a higher quality and feel less stressed and axious.
It seems we are always doing something. But what about just being? When was the last time you stopped and breathed? I mean really breathed. Something seemingly simple and the most important thing your body does and yet it is something we don’t prioritise. So take some time every single day just to breathe and no not having enough time is not an excuse! You don’t have to sit in full lotus pose for hours and hours, if 2 minutes is all you have then just take some deep breaths and focus on how you diaphragm contracts and expands. It really is that simple.
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept is as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.” -Eckhart Tolle
Some tips to bring yourself back to the present moment:
- Obsessing over the past – practice acceptance and forgiveness, and remember the lessons the past has taught you to make the present moment the best it can be.
- Future tripping aka when you are stressed and anxious – simply taking a minute to take 5 deep breathes can be the difference between freaking out and coming back to the present moment and finding a creative solution.
- Eating – sit at the dining table and make sure the television is switched off. Take a moment to notice the beautiful ingredients on your plate and the delicious aromas. Put your fork down in between each mouthful and take your time to enjoy each mouthful.
- Time with loved ones – make an effort to really listen to what your loved one is saying, make a memory that is so amazing that your mind won’t need a photo to remember it and put your phones away!
- “You time” – take a bath and just sit and enjoy being with you, no phones or books to distract you from just being.
Choose peace. Choose love. Choose light.