I really like this quote. What if you could do this most of the time? What kind of life would you be living?
I really like this quote. What if you could do this most of the time? What kind of life would you be living?
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:
Really anything I’ve written today seems on the surface pretty straightforward:
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.
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.
I recently wrote a review on the book UnFu*k Yourself where one of the authors rules for life was “I expect nothing; I accept everything”. As you think about this for a while it begins to make sense. Expecting things to turn out a certain way or for people to act a certain way is the road to disappointment. To start out with it takes you away from the present and instead you are living with expectations of the future. Let’s take a few examples:
These are just a few examples of how we all live with expectations that are literally sucking the fun out of life. There is no better way to mess up living in the present than by having all these stupid expectations. I’m not advocating that you don’t have dreams or goals, but be aware that if these are laden down with heaps of expectations you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Things rarely turn out the way you expect, often things turn out much better or much worse. You have so little control about how things will turn out, or what someone thinks of you, and planning on how things will turn out is a risky proposition. Do the best you can but don’t be so definitive about the outcome.
So what is the cure for this never ending life of expectations? I’m guessing if you read Gary Bishop’s book you know the answer. One little, but powerful word Acceptance is all you need to understand. By accepting things as they are, you are taking a big step towards living in the present. Give yourself a fucking break; you can often be accepting of others, but you can’t cut yourself some slack. If you can start living with a mindset of accepting life as it is, you will begin to really enjoy what you have and maybe even the things you do. Here are a couple of different ways to look at acceptance:
You don’t need to throw away all your dreams or vision for the future, but don’t get so specific that you put yourself in a corner when things don’t turn out exactly as you expected. Throwing out those silly expectations leaves you open to a whole new perspective and to enjoy how things unfold. All of this can provide amazing levels of joy instead of comparing what happens to your expectations.
I will leave you with one other quote from Gary Bishop that really resonated with me.
“Plan for victory and learn from your defeats.”
Happiness can exist only in acceptance. George Orwell
The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance. Brian Tracy
The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance. Nathaniel Branden
My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations. Michael J. Fox
Acceptance looks like a passive state, but in reality it brings something entirely new into this world. That peace, a subtle energy vibration, is consciousness. Eckhart Tolle
Like most of us I have deferred doing many things in my life. I tell myself maybe it’s not the right time, not just yet. I tell myself maybe it is too risky or beyond my abilities. I tell myself that it is too expensive or I just don’t have time for it. Unfortunately I have lied to myself and time marches on with me no closer to my dreams.
I tell myself there is lots of time to do that which I long to do in the future. I have focused my thoughts and desires to be something I will attain in the future. My mind does not live in the present it only focuses on the future. I make investments in myself, in others, sometimes financially or physically so that I will have a better future, or so I think. The irony is, there really is no guarantee of the future. The future has yet to happen and it is a figment of my imagination.
Ask yourself is there something you want to do? Maybe you would like to write a book, travel somewhere, have a relationship with someone, start a business, purchase a new home, or find a way to give something back to the world.
With no guarantee of the future, all of this waiting for the right time to begin to live the life you want is simply wrong. You don’t know how much time you have left on this earth, so why wait? Here are some examples of deferring to the future:
These are yet a few examples from my own life that plague me; I’m sure you can come up with your own list.
Quit imagining that you have all the time in the world to do the things you want to do, because you don’t. Make at least some effort to prioritize what is important to you and do it. If that means you have to be a little selfish then so be it. Look at your habits and decide do I really need to sit there every night and watch 2 hours of television.
Decide right now that the future is an illusion; begin living in the present and start doing the things you want to do and I mean now!
Stop taking for granted all the wonderful things that are happening around you understanding that tomorrow they become a thing of the past. You cannot wait for something to happen to experience fulfillment, happiness, and joy in your life; decide that the time is now.
These things that you want to do or have, may or may not bring the satisfaction you think they will in your life, but by not acting on your desires you will never know.
As human beings we attempt to live our lives in the past, present, and future. We often work in soul crushing jobs so that we can enjoy two or three weeks off. Are you actually working yourself to death for a couple weeks off? You can have a life more fulfilling that that; you were not created to simply settle.
It’s fine to think about what you want to become or have, but don’t stop by just dreaming about it; you must act and you must live in the now.
I’ve written about various ways to foster more happiness in your life including yoga, meditation, expressing gratitude, and caring for your physical health. All of these things are wonderful ways to be more happy, but we still are not as happy as we could be. Most of us are trapped in thinking that happiness is something we defer until we retire, buy that new house, find a better job, create our own business, have a more fulfilling relationship with our significant other, or any other number of things we feel will make us happy.
Unfortunately this deferring of happiness based on some future event is robbing us of it in the present. I’m not advocating that you abandon your dreams or stop pursuing your goals, but thinking that these things will make you happier is a fallacy. Don’t let the things you want in the future delay the opportunity to be happy today. Each moment that you impose these walls around yourself that are blocking you from being happy in the now are time wasted. That expensive new car, home, or pile of money will only provide temporary happiness; find a way to enjoy today for that is all you are guaranteed. No one is assured of tomorrow, no matter what your age or health. How many years will you have wasted waiting for happiness? If I only had more money, a better job, a more attractive spouse, a bigger house, I could be truly happy. This self deception is stealing away the days, leaving you less available to those around you. Pursue your goals, but make it your purpose to be happy during the journey not the manifestation of these things.
“If you want to be happy, do not dwell in the past, do not worry about the future, focus on living fully in the present.”
― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Hear
The seventh step on the Eightfold Path is Right Mindfulness. Right Mindfulness is about being aware of the world around you and focusing on the present. For most of us this is very difficult to do, as we are always obsessing over what happened yesterday or what we need to do tomorrow.
Through Right Mindfulness we are looking to create a greater awareness of everything around us, not hiding from it, but fully absorbing it. We are seeking to understand our true nature by being fully aware. Right Mindfulness then also implies focus and concentration. Maybe you have found this through playing an instrument, writing, or playing sports. This was a time when you were totally focused on one thing, in the zone if you will. The question for us is are there ways we can cultivate Right Mindfulness? Let me give you a few examples of simple ways that at least might set the stage for it:
If you like to worry about the future, remember there is no better preparation for the future than to be completely focused on the present. Great things are accomplished now, not yesterday, or tomorrow.
Right Mindfulness can lead to an uncluttered mind and this sets the stage for the ability to focus on the present. In my next post I will write about Right Concentration.