It seems like such an easy thing this living in the present, doesn’t it? In reality it can be very difficult, after years of living your life in the past or always trying to ensure a certain type of future. I struggle with this inability to live in the now on a daily basis, so much so as I have become an Eckhart Tolle junkie, owning just about every audio book that Audible has offered me. I wrote a book review a while back The Power of Now on one of my other blogs InspirationalBookReviews.com, that you might enjoy. I highly recommend this book and have listened to it more times than I can remember.
For those of you already enlightened and living in the now fully you can just quit reading this blog right now and I hope you have a great day, but if you are not quite living in the now on a consistent basis, read on. Our minds produce thousands of thoughts per day and it seems like we have little control of all this shit that is happening in our heads. If we stand any chance of experiencing the present moment we are going to need some tools or techniques to combat all that silly shit going on in our heads. Maybe all we need is a way to quiet the mind if you will. Now what I am going to advocate is not necessarily new or unique, but stick with me here for a moment, after all we all need to find some reprieve from all the noise in our heads that is preventing us from enjoying the present moment.
Here are a few things you might try to allow you to consciously experience the present moment:
- Do one thing at a time – This sound stupid at first, but think about how many times you put on your head phones start listening to an audio book and look at your Facebook or Instagram feed at the same. Even if you do not realize it, you are multi-tasking and pretty soon you missed some of the passages in your audio book as your mind focused on something visual in your social media feed. You have trained yourself to need audio and visual stimulation and your mind is trying to process both at the same time, and while this might be your version of living in the now, it is a pretty fucked up reality. Do this at work and you will find that what you attempt to get done takes longer and the quality suffers. This is really about the power of focus, which facilitates a better experience of the present moment. The lesson is try to do one thing at a time.
- Yoga and Meditation – Oh now here we go again, off on the yoga and meditation tangent, please save me from this mad man. Fine, I said it for you, now let me continue. The simple fact is that it’s pretty hard to live in the past or future once you learn to practice yoga and focus on your breathing. The same is true for meditation where you can use some techniques that will help you stay focused on the present moment. I will not belabor this point, but I do encourage you to start your day with yoga and meditation if you want to experience what living in the present can hold for you.
- Expectations – If you are continually filling your mind with expectations of what your life should be like or how the next thing you need to do should turn out; well then you are living in the future. We all do this shit! I can’t tell you how many times I wake up early worried about some stuff at work that isn’t getting done the way I think it should or isn’t turning out the way I think is should. How in the hell can I enjoy the present moment if I continue to have all these expectations? I can’t focus on living in the present moment until I can say fuck it. That doesn’t mean I don’t care, it just means I accept whatever happens instead of torturing myself with all the stupid expectations of the future. The lesson here is expectations are living in the future and preventing you from living in the present.
Really anything I’ve written today seems on the surface pretty straightforward:
Do one thing at a time
Practice yoga and meditation
Stop expecting things to turn out a certain way
None of this shit is easy, but each of these things is possible with a little practice, or in my case a lot of practice. Doing one thing at a time or practicing yoga not only provides an opportunity for you to live fully in the present moment, but also has many other benefits. Why do you think so many people drink, ingest or smoke cannabis, take prescription pain killers, or other forms of mind altering substances? It helps them experience the present moment and quiets their minds, but the problem is it is not sustainable and ultimately causes more trouble than it is worth.
Being the owner of a goal driven, super active, future based thinking mind I am challenged everyday to maintain a focus on the present moment. I would love to hear some of the ways you have found help you stay focused one the present moment.
It has been a while since I’ve written anything philosophical as I’ve been writing mostly book reviews of late. If you read my last blog post on InspirationalBookReviews.com called Cant’ Hurt Me you might wonder what affect a book like this might have on your life. There are a lot of takeaways from that book but for me the primary ones include:
- Toughen up – Both mentally and physically. If you read the book David Goggins uses a lot of physical challenges to toughen not just his body, but also his mind.
- Are you seeking some kind of easy life where people throw money or accolades at you because you think you deserve it?
- Are you expecting certain outcomes, that all work out due to your magnificent plans?
- Neither of these scenarios are likely to happen and most likely you will be challenged on a daily basis and you will need more than a little toughness, perseverance, relentlessness, or whatever you want to call it to make shit happen.
- Discipline – Get your lazy ass off the couch or chair and do something everyday that you can be proud of. This might be going for a run, practicing yoga, martial arts, Pilates, strength training, studying, writing, playing music or whatever floats your boat. Don’t say it’s too cold or it’s raining outside, just lace up the shoes and go do it. You can’t just hope you will gain some form of mastery or health sitting around thinking about it. You need to do it and do it over and over again, because that’s what discipline is all about.
- Complaining – We have a litany of excuses such as my legs are sore, I’m just too tired, or I am just not feeling it today. Maybe something happened at work and we feel it necessary to complain about some perceived injustice committed against us. The list of things to complain about goes on and on and on. Stop this shit! Complaining about anything serves no useful purpose and will only drag you down and increase your level of despair.
The next little bit of advice comes from the book Unfu*k Yourself by Gary Bishop that I wrote a review for in July of 2018. Let me preface this with saying this is my list of stuff that pertains to my life and you can just insert your own list. Gary Bishop essentially said:
If it doesn’t serve your goals, then quit doing it.
The context that he was using that statement was around free will and he was saying if you want to know how much free will you have just try and stop doing all the shit you know you shouldn’t be doing. However for me I looked at it as more of a challenge to identify all the crap I was doing that didn’t serve me.
Now we all have a list of shit we need to stop doing because these behaviors don’t even remotely serve us in any capacity. My list of shit I need to stop doing, which is on my whiteboard as I write this includes:
- Living in the future
- Resenting people and situations
- Letting my ego control my thoughts
- Fear of the unknown
- Caring about what other people think
- Unhealthy habits such as drinking alcohol, smoking, and eating crappy food
This is by no means an exhaustive list for me as I continue to find ways to mess stuff up in my life, but it’s a nice start.
If any of this resonates with you I would love to know what your list of things you are going to give up that don’t serve you anymore.
I am a strong believer in incremental improvement, so you might start with just one of the items on your list. Maybe you are not exercising or can’t seem to get your work done on time, so the thing you want to stop doing is “procrastinating”. The incremental approach to un-fucking your life dictates that you start slow and go for a walk in the morning or go to work earlier than usual and work on your assignments. Now you are starting to build some self discipline that begins to replace your tendency to procrastinate. Guess what your life is getting better and it wasn’t all that painful or was it?
Giving up something also implies you will need to replace it with something else. This helps you fill the void left by abandoning that thing that didn’t serve with something that is either the opposite or a healthy substitute. So in my case some endless fascination with “Living in the Future” would imply I need to start “Living in the Present”. I’m not going to go into details about how I am doing that in this blog post; that is a topic for another day.
I wish you all the best!
I am a Project Manager by profession, and as such I do a lot of planning for the future. One of the things we found over the years is that it is difficult to predict the future with any degree of accuracy and thus agile frameworks like Scrum and Kanban were born. Well if you can’t even predict what needs to be done and how long will it take for something as finite as a project then why do you expect to do this in a more complex scenario called your life.
I’m not saying you should not have goals or for that matter you should not plan things out that can be planned. The problem lies in having some stupid attachment to the plan while watching the failures accumulate as you doggedly follow a plan that is flawed. Like I said it’s good to have goals, but think of them more in terms of what you need to accomplish in the next couple weeks or a month instead of having detailed plans that span months and years. If you use an agile method like Scrum you would have a backlog of goals (Epics) and things you need to do to achieve the goal (user stories and tasks). Instead of making yourself crazy just pick a couple user stories from the backlog that will help you achieve your goal and focus on those for the next couple of weeks.
As your journey through life happens your goals will change, some may disappear and others will become more grandiose, and this is good even though it might not adhere to the plan you had in your head. Remember your not married to the plan, at best your just dating it. Life is unpredictable and when it’s all said and done the journey is your life. The plan is just a manifestation of your need to create some form of certainty in the future and deep down you know this is just bullshit. Let your belief in your goals or dreams drive you, but abandon the fucking plan. So what happens when you quit the long term planning game and focus on the short term; you might just find you will be living in the present moment and shit starts to happen for you and I don’t mean bad shit.
Again dream big, have goals, and work towards them, but try just for a while to bring that planning into the short term as tasks that you can actually accomplish. I personally like Google Tasks because it shows up in Gmail and Google Calendar. I then see these tasks when I’m using my laptop, tablet, Chromebook, or my phone. Choose some things you need to get done today, tomorrow, and a week from now and leave it at that. I encourage you to stay focused on today and guess what all the rest of the shit begins to happen for you. Do this for a week and let me know if you start to see and feel the difference in your life.