Keeping our minds and our thoughts on the present can be an all consuming task.
Research tells us that we each have around 60,000 thoughts a day. 60,000! What’s more, the majority of those thoughts are exactly the same thoughts that we had yesterday and the day before that (and the day before that). It’s no wonder keeping our thoughts in the now can be such a challenge. Our thinking can be all over the place and isn’t always conducive, positive or helpful.
I love this quote from Lao Tzu (that explains what living in the now looks like perfectly);
“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present”.
Unease, stress, worry, anxiety are all forms of fear. All are caused by too much past or future thinking, not enough presence and enjoying the now.
“The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery” Eckhart Tolle
Living in the now allows us to see people for who they are, to enjoy present relationships for what they are- separate from your past relationship experiences, to accept situations for what they bring to our life now. Free from the worry of past mistakes repeating themselves. Free from any need to control, overthink or see into the future (that’s a big one for all of us to pull the reins on at the best of times). It allows us to appreciate the present moment for everything it brings, to enjoy something for what it is now- not what it could be. It’s a very freeing way to live and think.
Often we feel snippets of this feeling. Experience moments where we are so wrapped up in the now that nothing else matters, often those moments are associated with something that was intense. The birth of your child, when you hold or look into the eyes of a loved one,
How can we be satisfied and at peace in the now with where we are, what we are doing and who we are?
I love what Ajahn Brahm has to say about living in the now and why we so often struggle to do so.
It’s because sometimes the “now” is boring.
The drama and emotion of the past can be more addictive, more indulging to hold onto and continue to relive. And the future can often feel more exciting and enticing. Something we are perhaps looking forward to, or uncertain- something that concerns and worries us.
The secret is to put more fun and enjoyment into the now rather than to let our thoughts strive for something beyond. To engage in the now a little more deeply. Really diving into what you’re reading, noticing fully what you are doing in that moment, feeling the breeze on your shoulders, actually listening to what the person in front of you is saying and engaging wholeheartedly. Wrap yourself up in the now in some way so your thoughts pleasantly stay there.
For me this works on a sensory level. Noticing how my soft sheets feel on my skin when I climb into bed (this always relaxes me), lingering on the smell of someone, the sound of the birds in my garden, the feel of the water on my skin in the shower (tendency to be a long shower person as a result if I’m not careful!) Noticing the now on a sensory level cuts through the noise and chatter of my mind every time.
Where do you often find your thoughts returning to? On the past or the future?