Living in the present is a concept I came across when I first began to study Buddhism in my mid-teens.
It is a concept that can be found in pretty much all spiritual and religious texts, including yoga, and is one of the main themes of the Bhagavad Gita, a yoga philosophy classic.
Being present means that you are not striving for particular results or outcomes, but are immersed in the here and now, finding joy in the task at hand and in the current experience of being, rather than searching for it in the future. No more “it will all be better once the house is sold and we can move into a bigger place,” and the like.
Instead, being in the present allows you to look at the challenges in your life as an obstacle course—a necessary part of your path and a learning opportunity. It also teaches you to let go of attachment—to those wanted outcomes and a desire to know what the future may bring.
Having been introduced to it at such an early age, it is something I have always kept in mind and tried to incorporate in my life—although, generally not very successfully.
I have certainly gotten better at it over the years, and know the benefits found when I do manage to stay in the here and now. I know that when I stay present, my sometimes mundane day job (I refer to it as the hamster wheel and my work uniform as my hamster suit) becomes more bearable. Instead of yearning for the future and the life I know I intend to pursue, I accept that I am currently right where I need to be. And I am—I know this. At present, I need to remain in this job, as much as it irks me. But to rail against it and my current life situation makes it all the worse.
If I can accept with equanimity and gratitude that the present is the place for me, then I can find joy in my less than ideal situation.
Now, having said that, yesterday was the perfect example of me not staying in the present and the resultant mental fluctuations weren’t particularly pleasant. Yesterday was Monday, which is always a bit of a grumpy day for me, having to don the hamster suit and head back to work after the weekend.
The feeling doesn’t normally last long, but yesterday was different. Yesterday, I chose to play in the Land of Discontent. The grass is always greener there. There’s generally no solid solution, just a lot of grumbling and “if only’s,” a good dash of fantasizing, and a helluva lot of internal whining.
It made for a fairly unpleasant day. And quite frankly, it disturbed me on many levels.
The negative self-talk, the lack of hope and gratitude, and looming dark cloud is not my normal demeanor and I don’t like feeling this way. And it was all because I had chosen to not be present.
Relationships are another area where I guess, like a lot of people, I have struggled with staying in the present.
Our society tends to put a lot of expectations on relationships, with a sort of timeline of how and when it should all take place. And I suppose, in the past, I have been guilty of wanting my relationships to follow at least part of the script.
However, things seem to have shifted for me, and after a couple of years of singledom, I have recently started seeing a bloke. He is, quite frankly, awesome.
Now, let’s face it, when we start a new relationship, we often find ourselves impatient to know where it is going, and we start to fantasize or worry about the future and completely miss the present. I don’t know why, but this isn’t the case for me this time ’round. I am so ridiculously in the present, it kinda shocks me.
And the joy—oh the joy!—of just enjoying what we have now, of not caring what the future holds, of just savoring every moment I am with him. It leaves me so incredibly grateful to be alive and to be experiencing this moment, this life, right now. There are no expectations, so there can be no failure. No fear of what may or may not be; no lusting after a desired result. There is only the now and what we have at present.
So folks, I guess the moral of the story is: Stay in the present as much as possible.
The past is gone, the stories have been told and can’t be revisited, and the future is not for us to know but for us to experience once we are there. In the present is where the joy lies. In the here and now, in this life, in this moment.
The Dalai Lama’s 6 Key Tips to Happiness.
Author: Cassandra Pickel
Editor: Catherine Monkman
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