“The past is history. The future is a mystery. The present is a gift.” – Lisa Unger
When we consider the construct of time, we know that the past is no longer with us and that the present has not yet arrived. The only time that we truly have is the moment that we currently find ourselves in.
So why do we expend so much of our mental energy ruminating over the past or worrying about the future? What does it take for us to more actively embrace the present moment?
As humans, we are equipped with the capacity for mental focus beyond the here and now. Perhaps we are driving the car but are thinking about what we will have for dinner that night. Maybe we are in a meeting at work but are thinking about an argument we had with our partner that morning. Maybe we are listening to someone talking but are thinking about what we’re going to do on the weekend.
Added to this is the complexity and pace of our modern day life and the impact that multi-tasking has on our thinking mind. When we’re constantly flitting our awareness from one thing to the next and do this incessantly, we’re literally rewiring the way our brain works, falling into unhealthy, habitual thinking patterns.
Whilst the capacity to plan and reflect is important for our capacity to adapt and be functional in our life, if left unchecked, our mind can come to be preoccupied with thoughts of the past of the future that all the wonder and peace of the present moment eludes us.
When we are focused on the present moment, it helps to alleviate us from the anxieties of the past and the future, where energy can sometimes be spent unnecessarily on situations that don’t actually eventuate.
When you are able to embrace the power of the present moment, you devote your full attention on the task at hand, merging with that moment in the process. You may have had the experience of doing something that you’re completely immersed in and time just slips by without you realizing. This is present moment awareness in action.
The present moment helps us to unhook from our yearnings and our fixation for how our life should be. It can help us to be at peace with what we have in our life instead of striving and wishing our life to be something other than it is. As simple as this sounds, much research has revealed that this is actually the essence of lasting happiness and fulfilment and is a founding principle of Buddhist psychology.
A mindful approach to life ensures that you are not unconsciously pushed around by unhelpful thoughts and unresolved emotions. Instead, you are able to be present to what is going on inside you and either choose a path of detachment where you become the observer of your thoughts and emotions rather than a victim of them. Or alternatively, you can take a conscious approach to reframing your thoughts or circumstances with the intention of evoking a different experience.
If you are able to master the process of embracing the present moment on a consistent basis, unhappiness and stress will start to dissipate and joy and ease will rise to the fore. Even simple tasks that were seemingly mundane take on a new experiences as everything you do becomes imbued with a sense of care and presence. It is from this space that we start to feel immense gratitude for the simple joys of our bodies, our breathe, silence, touch, connection, nature and the most simple yet miraculous qualities that life has to offer us if we take the time to notice them.