Living in the moment…

…how do we go about it?

It’s amazing how such a simple, almost clichéd idea can still manage to have a profound impact on me every time I am reminded of it in any well-thought out or well-articulated way. And it makes me wonder – am I ever going to stop “forgetting” to do this? Will there come a time when it truly becomes ingrained in my day-to-day existence?

But the problem isn’t just with forgetting to do it – the problem starts with managing to do it in the first place.

Essentially, a call to living in the moment should be a reminder of the insignificance of material things, the pettiness of small irritations with loved ones and days whiled away in boredom. We might feel moved to reach out to a loved one, or to engage more in what we’re passionate about. We might engage in such activities as meditation, and attempt to think only about what is happening to us right now without reference to the past or the future.

The problem is this: we are, as human beings, hardwired to be constantly thinking about both the past and the future.

And this tendency is present instinctually, emotionally, and intellectually.

Our ability to reason, to compare, to analyse, has led us to this evolutionary point. It is the secret to our success. And so, letting go of this tendency seems to run contrary to our very nature.

So what are we to do about it? It is often true that we would be happier if we let go of memories of incidents in the past, no matter how recent – if we allowed our consciousness to reset and focus on the now. But it is almost impossible to avoid bringing things up in your mind and assessing the probability of it happening again. And if we do consistently focus on the present and avoid this type of analysis, how are we to look at the bigger picture of our life and assess our own happiness, and the successfulness of how we are going about it?

It’s also true that we may be happier if we avoided obsessively thinking about the future – attempting to plan out the weeks, months and years ahead. This kind of thinking can be inspiring and exciting, but leads to one of our greatest barriers to happiness – waiting to be happy in the future rather than focussing on being happy right now. But again, without this future planning, we cannot build lives for ourselves.

So I suppose this goal of “living in the moment” is rather qualified. Perhaps it is something we should aim to do every day, but perhaps just for a few hours, or even for a few minutes. But is it really possible to do, when the rest of our lives revolve around the-moment-just-passed and the-moment-about-to-happen?

I feel I have been struggling to find the answer to this for many years now. At what point do I give up on this particular holy grail, and decide that the answer to happiness lies elsewhere?

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9 thoughts on “Living in the moment…

  1. As children, we lived in the moment. Why is that? Is there an equivalent state that can be reached as an ‘adult’ with all our apparent requirements to deal with life and plan ahead?

    Are living in the moment and moving toward the future incongruent?

    A hike takes planning and thought but you must walk it one step at a time. Do you focus only on the path before you, focus only forward with your eyes on the end of the path or do you look around you? Do you see the trees, the flowers, the sky? Do you smell the leaves and earth? Do you hear the sound of birds and the wind in the trees? Do you feel sunlight on your face?

    • Well put. Yes, I suppose we can do both at once! Living in the moment sometimes takes a bit of effort, or we might have to remind ourselves to do it. But I guess it is possible, but probably only to some degree. I think we’re always looking forward on the path even while we take in what’s around us.

  2. Have you read the Buddhist teachings about the big boat and little boat to the other shore?
    The thing is, you’re already there. The trick is to wake up to your Buddha consciousness, which is also already there (be quiet). Myself, I’m thinking about what to have for lunch.

  3. You have a wonderful writing style. I don’t often see this quality in bloggers. I learnt a long time ago that thinking about the past or the future for too long places you in a time warp. But living in the moment too much can also place you in a narrow time bubble without any real connection to your past or future. Finding the right mixture sometimes comes through intervention e.g., with the aid of physical reminders like setting time limits on thoughts about particular times. Giving yourself permission to think about something for 30 minutes means you don’t have to feel guilty and it also allows you to grow for the rest of the time.

    • Thanks for that advice, it’s certainly something I’ve considered doing, although you know how it is – it’s hard to get into the habit of doing things like setting aside time to think about certain things rather than worrying constantly! I’m so pleased you like my writing, it means a lot. 🙂

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