Living in the present moment is hard. If you think too much about your past or future, you’re not actually living, but you become part of an illusion.
I’ve been living in the past or future for most of my life. I still am and whenever I think about the past or future, I get anxious. The certainty of the past and the strong, naked desires about the future are two elements of anyone’s life and they’re making the present moment hard to focus on.
We choose to relive our past through the strong emotions and feelings we felt a while back. Either we’re talking about a positive feeling, such as loving someone, or we’re talking about its opposite, hating someone, if these feelings have been strong in the past, remembering them will make the past stronger than the present moment.
On the other hand, the future aspect of our lives is not so different. We either desire to have the positive feeling in our lives or to run away from the negative feeling that we felt in our past.
This way, we stay connected constantly to the past and future and, day by day, we forget that once, our past was a present moment and the future we’ll have is strongly impacted by the present moment. Therefore, everything comes down to now. What you’re doing now, what you’re feeling now, what you’re thinking now.
What you’re doing now …
The actions you’re having right now are the actions that really matter. After all, you can’t change what you did in the past and you can’t control RIGHT NOW how you’ll act two days from now.
When it comes to our future, the more you’re trying to control the future with actions in the present moment, the boring the future will be. As soon as you’re trying to control your future, you’re creating expectations for how that future is going to be like. But that version that you imagine is always an illusion because you’re not the only one contributing to your future.
It’s like trying to buy an ice cream today for the next week and not having a fridge to store it but still expecting the ice cream to be eatable one week from now.
But what if I’m thinking about how my life is going to be 10 years from now?
For example, let’s say you decide that in 10 years you want to buy a house. In this case, the decision of buying a house is made in the present moment with the expectations of having a house 10 years from now. But are you going to start building your house today? No, not really. Instead, you are going to save money so you could buy the desired house 10 years from now.
Thinking about a specific house disconnects you from the present moment. Saving money every day keeps you connected to the present moment because it is an action of the present moment. You are saving money today, not 10 years from now.
What you’re feeling right now …
If you tend to have your mind too busy with your past or your future, what you’re feeling right now is an illusion. It is not real. It is not part of the present moment.
Here are a few examples of feelings connected to past or future:
- You feel stressed because your boss may fire you during next week meeting
- You feel overwhelmed because you have too many events you have to be present at for the next few days
- You feel sad because your sister doesn’t speak with you anymore since you didn’t keep your promise
Want to know how a feeling connected to the present moment is like?
- I feel happy because I’m able to do the things I’m doing right now
What you’re feeling right now should be nothing but joy. If you remember your childhood for a second, for sure you can think of those moments when you were able to do whatever you wanted and you were happy about it. As a child, you didn’t have the concept of future or past.
What you’re thinking right now …
What you’re thinking right now is oftentimes about past or future. What you’re thinking right now is almost never about right now.
If you got to this part of the article, you read a bit over 700 words. How many times, during this activity of reading, your mind went to a place of your past or future and then came back?
If it happened once or more than once, you’re not living in the present moment.
Here’s another question: Did you realize it now, when I asked you about it?
Being able to identify if and when you’re living in the past or future without external help is crucial for learning how to live in the present moment.
When you’re connected too much to what you think, you can’t experience what is really happening
Let’s start with a simple example.
You are that type of person who loves summer and there’s no way you’re going to miss traveling to one of the cities on your list. Two weeks ago, you decided on the most wanted city that you haven’t visited yet, bought a plane ticket and here you are, in a city you can’t wait to explore.
You just arrived in the city that you’ve always wanted to visit. You drop your backpack at your location, you have a shower and then you go for a walk. You booked your place for 4 days and every day you start your day at 7 in the morning, have a shower, eat something, and at right after that you go for a walk. You get back later in the evening and because you’re so tired, you have a shower and fall asleep pretty easily.
When the 4-day trip is over, you go back home.
This is a pretty bad story, right? It doesn’t provide you with any details about what you’re doing there.
Here’s another part of the story.
On the second day, while wandering around the streets, you see from a distance a small place that was selling only ice cream. You approach the store thinking about all the new flavors that you haven’t tried before. The more you approach the store, the more you’re thinking about ice cream and ice cream only. You get inside and you realize there are over 20 types of flavors you can pick from. You purchase your crunchy-dragon fruit-vanilla ice cream and leave the store.
It takes you around 5 to 10 minutes to finish eating the ice cream and you feel the happiest. Too bad you walked too far away from the store because you felt like you wanted to buy another one.
This makes the story a bit better, right? Let’s change the story a bit.
Right after you buy the ice cream, you get outside the store, and you start eating it. You open your mouth, you stick your tongue out, and you start licking the ice cream. Yes, on both sides. The more you think about it, the more you realize how nasty the activity is and, as soon as you see yourself as the protagonist of a porno movie, you drop the ice cream immediately and you start feeling weird.
Sorry for the image I’ve put in your head but it helps me make a point.
The more and harder you’re thinking about the things you’re doing, the less you’re actually living them. Even if the things you’re doing are part of the present moment.
Living in the present moment is hard
Considering how chaotic life can be, living only in the present moment seems impossible. But we can only try making it possible by becoming aware of the moments when we’re paying attention to our past or future.
Living in the present moment is an activity so fragile that is so easy to become distracted and break the connection you have with the present moment.
If you’re usually driving, think about the last time some idiot cut you off and you started yelling at them. That is you, disconnected from the present moment, and becoming one with a moment that happened a few seconds ago.
Think about something someone said to you that you changed the topic entirely because you didn’t want to approach that topic anymore. In that moment, you decided to focus on something else than the present moment.
We’re usually disconnecting ourselves from the present moment when the pain that we find in the present moment is too much and we decide that we don’t want to deal with it in the present moment. At that time, we shift our attention to our past or future because of two reasons:
- We focus on our past because of the clarity we have over it or we focus on our future because of the warm feeling it provides
- Even though our past or future can provide us with a dose of pain, it’s a type of pain that we know and we’ve dealt with it before, therefore we choose it over the pain provided by the present moment
How to reconnect yourself to the present moment
There’s one thing that’s always happening in the present moment and that’s breathing.
You’re breathing right now and your breathing is connected to every second of the present moment. But unconscious breathing is not the way of reconnecting yourself to the present moment.
Therefore, here are the steps I use to properly breathe and I’m doing this breathing exercise whenever I get the chance, especially in the last few weeks.
Step 1: Breathing in and breathing out
Breathing in is happening through your nose and breathing out is happening through your mouth.
Step 2: Timing for breathing in and breathing out
Breathe in until you have your lungs full of oxygen, then keep the oxygen inside your lungs for a few seconds, and after that breathe out. When you breathe out, do it slowly. As an indication, breathing out should take twice as long as breathing in.
Step 3: Two types of breathing: chest and belly
When you’re breathing in and your chest is the one that’s getting volume, then you’re breathing in the wrong way. Instead, to breathe in correctly, focus on your belly.
Step 4: Comfortable position
To properly breathe, make sure you are sitting in a comfortable position. Right after that, make sure you’re touching your ground with your feet.
Step 5: Close your eyes (optional)
Closing your eyes can be helpful because whatever you look at can represent a distraction.
If you haven’t done this type of breathing before, I promise it will work and it’s one step towards living in the present moment. Just make sure you’re doing it daily, at least a few times a day.
With love and optimism,