“Living in the present moment” is a phrase that all of us will encounter eventually when venturing down the spiritual path but what does the phrase actually mean? Many people mistakingly take it to mean living like there is no tomorrow, just enjoying yourself now and not planning for the future, this idea couldn’t be further from the truth.
Living in the present moment simply means to just be here and now with whatever we are doing. Happiness and peace are states of mind, a wandering mind is what causes unhappiness, a mind focused on what’s happening here and now is the most happiest.
Ever notice when we are with someone we like or doing something we really enjoy that time seems to pass extremely quickly? It does so because time is just a thought construct, the past and future are just thoughts happening ” now”. Our minds naturally focus on the present moment, focus on reality when we are doing enjoyable things.
What happens when we are doing something or hanging around people we don’t like? The opposite happens, our minds leave the present moment and drift off into thought stories about how we don’t like this or that, how annoying this person or situation is, how we could be somewhere else right now etc.
Living in the present is the key to long term happiness. Bad times and tough times happen to all of us but if we are to be honest with ourselves we will realise it’s not the bad events that makes us unhappy it’s the stories in our heads about the bad things happening or the stories of regret after they have already happened. The longer we are trapped in our minds especially with negative stories the worse we feel.
Making plans fo the future is ironically for people that live in the present, how so? We get good at what we practice, if we practice always thinking about achieving our next goal, always thinking of the future without enjoying the present moment we are gonna live our entire lives in our heads from cradle to grave.
When our mind is in seeking mode it’s never gonna be happy with what it has, it’s always going to be focused on the next achievement. To live in the present is not to not make plans or not have goals but to learn to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. If we must lose a lot of weight for instance, of course we are going to be excited how we will look when we achieve our goal but we must understand that success comes from repetition, to fall in love with the process of getting up every day, even when we don’t want to and just getting what we need to achieve our goals done.
Success is a habit, a repetitive habit, when we don’t or can’t live in the present and enjoy the process and the ” boring” parts of life our minds can and do easily get distracted and we end up not achieving our goals. In Buddhism the say to develop the gaze of a lion not a dog, a dog and a lion will focus their gaze on you if you stand in front of them, but throw a stick out to a dog and its gaze gets distracted and chases the stick, throw a stick out to a lion and the lion chases you, what they are trying to say is to develop a non distracted mind, the gaze of the lion, focused on the main goal, it’s the key to happiness and success.
In a world full of distraction, like everything else in life, going against the crowd has value, the majority are distracted with no purpose, so we must be not distracted with purpose. To develop this habit practices like mindfulness and meditation really helps. So to sum up, to live in the present is to live in reality and as far as making plans for the future go, we will only achieve our long term goals if we live in the present, we must love the process of achievement not just the achievement itself because 99.9% of achieving something is the process, and it’s going to be boring, repetitive hard work leading up to the goal so we better learn to love it.
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Have a good day,