Recently, I have been putting a lot of emphasis on acknowledging and living in the present moment. The power of the present is real.
The present moment is where everything that has ever happened, happened. Where everything is happening now. Where everything that ever will happen, will happen. The past isn’t a real place. Neither is the future. The only tangible concept of time that we will ever have is right now. A long chain of ‘right nows’ forever and ever. That is pretty weird but also pretty empowering.
The present moment is infinitely complex. Every single person in the world is experiencing this very same present moment in a different way to you. However, no-one is experiencing the moment in the same way, especially with the unique stories that we warp to match our realities. Thankfully, you can use this as part of your own superpower. Controlling how you experience the present and that you only experience the present as much as possible, brings so many benefits. Here are two from my own life in the last week or two…
I recently had the privilege of being on holiday with my family in Spain for a week. I knew that the 7 days would fly by as they often do on holiday. However, multiple times a day I would try and bring myself back to the present moment. I would stop to look at everything that was around me; where I was, who I was with and what else I could see. I would stop to breathe and take everything around me in. Before a meal I would take a moment to be in the present, to appreciate where my food had come from to arrive on my plate and then enjoy the taste of every bite. Consciously taking more time to live in the present moment helped me to not only enjoy my week away even more, but it also prolonged the whole trip. Whenever I think back to a conscious, present moment that I had, I realised that I did a lot and experienced a lot more than I thought.
Two important thoughts that I came away with from being in Spain and thinking about the present moment are these:
1. I should do this way more often. Don’t think for one second that my baseline at home is to stop and breathe. To appreciate the sofa and TV around me and to taste every bite of my lunch. It should be my default, and I’m working towards it, but right now it’s not. I do, however, feel like I am moving in the right direction which is important.
2. I feel like not living in the present moment is what makes our lives go by so quick. During the average week, we are thinking about tasks that need to be done, things that have happened to us or what else is going on in the world. Rarely do we sit quietly, by ourselves, in our lives and in our own mind and just breathe. This might not be correct, but I’ve found that the more time I’m in the present, the slower and more enjoyable days are.
“Don’t let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present moment.”
So that is the power of the present when it comes to enjoyment. What about when it comes to negative emotions such as fear, anxiety and potential suffering?
This week I had knee surgery. I realise that I am hardly a special case having knee surgery and the emotions of fear and anxiety are hardly comparable to other mental and physical illnesses out there. Nonetheless, I was nervous in the days before, had an underlying fear of going under the knife and being put to sleep and anxious about my recovery afterwards. I decided to apply the same present moment concept as I did when I was on holiday and it worked wonders.
For a couple of days before, I only allowed myself to live in the present. That meant no worrying about the operation because it wasn’t happening ‘right now’. Those thoughts would naturally present themselves every so often but I was strict and didn’t give them time. I was aware that each moment would eventually arrive in the present. The morning of the operation. The drive to the operation. The lying in the bed waiting to be put to sleep. The recovery (which is actually a long series of present moments that I’m still experiencing).
That was fine though. When I dealt with each of those things, one at a time as they arrived in the present moment, it was a much more manageable task. When I was fully concentrated on the now and nothing else, most of the worry was replaced with focus and I got through it all one step at a time. It was a hell of a lot easier and less stressful that way.
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.”
Is it naive to say that solely living in the present is all you need for a happy, meaningful, stronger and successful life? Probably.
Is it naive to assume that it is a massive contributor to all of those things? Probably not.
I still have a lot to learn. Too much. But one thing I have learned from my recent experiences is the immense power of the present.