When I am working hard often I think about going on a vacation and daydream about the upcoming holidays. When I am on a vacation in a far off land, I can’t help but think of work, the pending projects, team performance, future ventures and more. I am sure a lot of people are like that. It is how we are wired.
Thinking about the future or dwelling on the past is the biggest problem that people face today. The present is a fleeting thing that really does not register completely on the human psyche – unless one makes a conscious effort.
So what is the present?
Every waking moment in our lives is the present. As a matter of fact, there is no past or future. Tomorrow lunch appears to be in the future but it does not exist till that moment arrives and when we are in that moment, it is the lunch.
People fret about the future all the time. A lot of people torment themselves about events that may or may not happen in the future. You can say they are living in hell.
The present is one continuous moment and we are always alive at that moment. Things in this universe happen at that moment. Our breath is the witness to that moment and that is why it is used as a tool to help with meditation and mindfulness. But the mind gallops like a horse and creates the past and the future.
Right now, as you read this, stop and just focus on your breath. Recognize the intake and the out breath. Feel the rise and fall of the abdomen. Feel the air in the nostrils. That is the present. What is happening in front of your eyes at that moment is the present. Nothing else matters.
For someone, the present may be a loving hug from a family member. For another, the present may be their car heading towards another at high speed. For yet another, it may be a glass dropping from the table and crashing. And when it does, the present for that person is the shards of glass on the floor. Nothing else. Not the way the glass used to be and how useful it was (the past) or how it would have been useful tomorrow (the future).
When you are taking a shower, just stop and focus on the water falling on your body. Feel the sensation on your skin. The temperature of the water. The sound of the drops of water hitting the shower floor. Feel your hands moving over your body as you rub the soap. Do not think about what you would do after you get out of the shower. That is the future. But in reality, you will only do what you do in the moment after the shower which will be the present.
When you are eating lunch or dinner, be in the present and feel the food in your mouth. Do not think of what happened earlier that day at the office or what you would do tomorrow afternoon. Just be in the moment. This is called being mindful.
Don’t get me wrong. In this modern world, we do have to plan for the future and think about the future. But set aside a time and do that meaningfully. Not all the time.
What about the past?
The past does not exist. Events that have happened in the past actually happened in the present at that time. So in effect, there is only one time – the present. When we think about the past, we are just accessing memories of events that are stored in our brains.
If we remember this then we would not spend time thinking about how we should have done this or that in the past – in other words, we would not have regrets. A lot of pain and torment comes through when we regret our past. Sometimes we may also use the past to escape the realities of the present – if they are painful.
And what is the future?
Events that we think will happen in the future do not exist either. We think that the future is something that exists in the future and we will get to it like it were a journey with destinations. Not true.
Tomorrow is not something that exists and comes to you tomorrow. Going for a holiday that you have booked your tickets for next month does not exist. It does not come to you. It starts to happen in the present when that moment happens.
Imagine you had a lunch date for Sunday and today is Wednesday. Suppose you fell into a deep sleep tonight and woke up at noon on Sunday. What happened to the time in between? Was that the past? Was it the future that was happening while you slept? Now that the lunch date is right in front of you, what is this? Did the future arrive magically to be in the present?
The future is nothing but the present that happens in the moment that it happens.
So why am I rambling on about the past, present and the future? I think that having clarity on what the past and the future mean will enable you to really focus on the present and be mindful which in turn will enrich your life and enlighten you.
I am not kidding. Try it today. Be conscious of everything you do today. Try not to dwell in the past. If the past does come up, realize that and gently push it away. If you find yourself thinking about the future, gently push that away too and come back to what you are doing in that moment.
Meditation can also help cultivate mindfulness and prevent your thoughts scattering like birds. I have written a beginners guide to meditation that may help you. It may sound quite difficult but the secret is to just do it consistently. Even if it is 5 minutes a day. I started with 5 minutes and now I can meditate for over an hour and not realize it.
Please leave your comments or opinions on this topic and share with me your story.