View this post on Instagram
“Life has been one big blur,” he told me as he reflected on the past decade.
He had achieved so much in his time yet felt a deep sense of dissatisfaction and dissociation.
I couldn’t have explained it better myself—a blur, the perfect description of life at full speed with minimal memory of the days gone by.
One of my motivations to slow down and learn how be present is because when I looked at my own life, it seemed blurry too—fast and disconnected. I didn’t want to live with regret because I rushed without spending quality time in the present moment. So, I started practicing paying attention to the moment, and I was amazed at how my life became less blurry over time.
Later on, I would understand the impacts on our long-term memory when we avoid focusing on the present moment and why a blurry life may represent a life that is too fixated on the future (a distracted mind).
According to Daniel Schacter, who studied memory, he theorized there are seven sins of memory we all experience. One of them is absent-mindedness—the inability to remember something due to our mind being elsewhere.
For me, the blur of my 20s meant I could not see how much I had evolved. Although I had achieved much, and on paper, things looked successful, I didn’t innately feel confident, nor was I able to realistically see my growth by the time I reached my 30s, so I dreaded getting older.
I always thought I needed to do more, be more, achieve more by a certain time. When I look back, the blurriness was because I was rushing through the days, piling up my to-do list, and trying to leap ahead rather than patiently move through life.
If we think back to when our lives were blurry, perhaps we need to ask ourselves what was happening during those times. Maybe we were rushed, panicked, stressed, maybe even in a painful or hurtful situation, and the memory becomes faint. Sure, we may remember how it feels, but certain elements are forgotten or hard to retrieve. Perhaps we were feeling too stressed and anxious, and our focus became dissociative (we wanted to be anywhere else but that moment).
In our everyday lives, we may be caught up in our thoughts over long periods, running toward a picture in our mind rather than focusing intentionally on this day (consistently). We’re physically in our bodies, moving through the days, but our mind is elsewhere—attending to the present but thinking about the future. Perhaps we’re worrying about what will happen, how it will happen, or when it will happen.
On the contrary, when we think about a moment in our lives we remember vividly, we were most likely present, soaking up the experience in its fullness. This may be why we talk about holidays, travel, food, and the fun times with intense passion and full recollection of the experience as if it happened yesterday. We were there, thoroughly engrossed, enjoying ourselves.
When our focus is present, we develop our long-term memory—our brain is learning about the experience and storing it in (almost) its fullness. But when we move through life quickly, we’re essentially expecting our brain to work on overdrive while we impatiently seek out tomorrow, and this comes at the cost of our memory.
We may argue that the reason we remember certain memories is because we were enjoying them. Maybe that’s part of the reason we avoid the present—we’d rather be anywhere but here (even in our minds). Life has its ups and downs, and to evolve truthfully, we also need to fully engage with the “not so fun” aspects of life to learn from them, and evolve.
It’s difficult to analyze how far we have come with integrity if we have minimal memory of it. Or if we remember only the good and block out the rest.
Jenny Brockis breaks it down in her book Future Brain: The 12 Keys to Create Your High-Performance Brain, “Pushing too long not only consumes a lot of cognitive energy; it denies the brain the time to consolidate new learning, to form long-term memory and start to make associations between new and older thoughts.”
Hello, blurry life.
As I started paying more attention to the present, the days became less blurry and dissociated. I started to feel more contentment every day rather than waiting for “one day” to feel good about myself and my journey. My emotions, both big and small, blissful and uncomfortable, sad and happy—I have learned to embrace them all.
The association between new and older thoughts becomes clearer, leading to a realistic idea of how far we have grown, an appreciation for where we are and a healthier, balanced appetite for our future.
Dissatisfaction is less likely when we practice living in the present moment because we learn to appreciate the gift that is today and we remember the days that create a more holistic journey.
When we’re tempted to worry about the future and forfeit the present, we need to ask ourselves:
>> What is the point of arriving in the future with little to no memory of it?
>> Why live life so fast it becomes a blur?
>> How can we find a healthy balance between where we want to go and remaining present?
Here are seven tips that have helped me:
1. Focus on one task at a time and be fully immersed in the activity at hand. For the wandering mind, create a list, and only move to the next task when the current task is complete.
2. Regularly sit and watch the sky, nature, or grass—and ponder. By allowing ourselves to watch nature or the natural movement of the outdoors, we learn to appreciate how life moves organically.
3. Practice, practice, practice. Mindfulness is about ongoing practice for the rest of our lives.
4. While exercising or training, avoid mirrors and focus on deep breathing. By connecting to how we feel in our bodies and tuning in, we practice letting go of critical thoughts toward ourselves. This is important if we tend to criticize our bodies or actions, and will help to satiate that inner feeling that calls for “more, more, more.”
5. Distractions are the enemy of the present but they happen. However, it is up to us to minimise the distractions within our control. Checking socials or darting from task to task may feel like we are achieving a tonne, but it can be detrimental to our quality of work. It can also impact how we learn and grasp things, as well as increase unnecessary stress.
6. Walk every day.
7. Address inner pains and traumas, or conflicts that could be the underlying motivation pushing us to avoid the present moment.