Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Chasing The Present

photo: mine from Christmas Day. heheh.

Why is it so hard to stay present in our own lives?

It's probably not because of a lack of being reminded of it. We get reminded of it all the time, and yet, like being told to put sunscreen on, it soon becomes like background noise. Something you expect to hear, and agree to, it's just hard to apply it to your life. But why?

I'm guessing a lot of it is because of the fact that even though there are so many ways to put it into words (eg. live in the now, YOLO, be here now, wherever you are, there you are, be present, etc), as a concept, it has an odd ability to stay just a bit out of grasp, even after you understand it one time.

Because it's a way to be and to do things, not an activity in itself.

We can never hand out how to be present in specific, all-encompassing terms. We can only talk about what it could feel like, what it could cause, things that could probably help get us there.

It's not a one-size-fits-all type of deal. Everyone will have a different level of openness to the present that could give them the most benefit, and everyone would respond very differently to different ways to achieve this mental state.

However. it's a little bit easier to notice a severe lack of it.

We lack presence when we feel time go really fast. It means we spent a lot of time in our heads and have come back to our surroundings on a much later date or hour than we expected it to be. When we are riddled with regret, we know that we were stuck back in the past for a little bit. When everything around us seems dull compared to our dreams, we know we spent too much time imagining the future instead of being here, to make the future happen.

I guess what I'm saying is... being in the present moment is a little bit like happiness - it is best to approach it calmly, with open eyes and an open mind, and allowing it to fall into your hands. When you chase it, you lose it. Because it doesn't come from anywhere else but inside yourself.

See, it's hard to not sound mystical when trying to explain it!

But as I've said, a little bit more openness is helpful. And quite worth it, once you get to a point where it comes a lot easier. But things get a bit weird when what you need to be open to is not to do something more, but to do something less. To stop trying so hard.

Here are the personal tools I use when I attempt to pull myself back into here and now. I hope you find them helpful, if you feel open enough to receive them:

  • Stop trying to be present. When you are fully present and are used to the sensation, it should not feel like trying at all. If it feels like trying at first, that's okay. But don't try too hard. You'll lose the calm required, and you'll use up will power that you could use for other things that let you function in your life. It's alright, we are humans and we need thinking about the past and future to make sense of our surroundings and lives. The key is to just stay open and to not get lost in these thoughts, so we can let the present flow, and be at peace with whatever comes.
  • Let go of worry. A nice albeit morbid activity that I've recently embraced is to think about the impermanence of life and our eventual death, or Memento Mori. The first time I came across the idea, though. I internally flinched, because I thought I could never really think about death without feeling haunted by it. I can't not worry about it. But that actually goes against what Memento Mori is trying to achieve. Reminders of how short life is are not there to make us worry about it, which would take us away from the present, but to make us accept what's there at the end, and so we end up valuing what's here, now, even more. "Death is there, not here. Let there take care of itself, and let me take care of here."
  • Be curious. Perhaps the most natural way to be in a state of flow. Follow your curiosity, and for any other old thing that you need to deal with, be genuinely curious about that. We often take curiosity for granted, as if it's something that can only occur spontaneously, but it can be helped along by a little effort from ourselves. It can be what makes a boring, soul-sucking errand turn into an interesting, complicated and stimulating activity. This is the only thing in this list that doesn't ask you to stop doing something, and that's what makes it the most important one. Avoiding things will never be as effective as simply replacing them with something better (even with diets!). And so never forget this most important step.

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