The easiest way to explain living in the present is to start by explaining what it means to not be present, since this is the state we have become habitually used to.
When you aren’t being present you become a victim of time. Your mind is pulled into the past or the future, or both.
Your thoughts are of the past: what has been, what could have been, what you thought happened vs. what actually did happen. Or, your thoughts are of the future: what will be, what could be, what might be, if…
Of course, it’s natural to spend moments of thought in the past or in daydreams of the future. Identifying impending dangers through associations with things that have happened in the past is important for self-preservation. But when our lives become dictated by thoughts and emotions attached to past events and potential future outcomes, standing peacefully rooted in the present becomes increasingly rare.
Our routine, our habit, is to be off in our heads somewhere mulling over negativity and struggles of the past, or becoming anxious and fearful of the future. Seldom are we fully “here”; neutrally centred to see through life’s lens with clarity and naked awareness – a state that assists us in finding contentment and understanding in ourselves.
Habits quickly become the norm and, as we know from many of life’s other vices, just because we’re used to doing something regularly doesn’t mean it is good for us, or the right way to live.
An easy way to break this habit of being a victim of time is to identify time for what it is. Time is a human concept. The watch on your wrist and the clock on the wall mean nothing to Mother Nature. To her, life is one evolving moment – a perpetual cycle of interdependent impermanence. Time is a metric we use as a reference point for organising our lives and documenting history. It doesn’t actually exist. Really, it doesn’t. Ask a scientist.
Time is an illusion, which makes being controlled by time somewhat delusional. The past doesn’t exist and neither does the future. The only true reference point we have to this moment in time, and to this thing we label “existence”, is a feeling of presence, of being here in this body, of seeing the world through these eyes.
This is all that can exist, because this is what you feel right now. You can’t feel the past or the future, but you can feel what it feels like to touch something right now, to see something, to hear something.
The concept of time deludes us into concerning ourselves with its passing and impending arrival. This stops us enjoying this “presence” we feel. We are duped into remaining in one of two states: The first, one of dwelling in the past and mulling over what has happened. The second, one of waiting amd constantly anticipating what is to come, if and when…
– How often do you enjoy your work? Or are you too busy thinking about getting it finished by the deadline to give yourself a chance to enjoy it?
– Are you so stressed out trying to do your best work to impress your boss that you prevent yourself being able to perform at your highest potential anyway?
– Are you so distracted by thoughts of Monday morning that you spoil the time spent with your children on the weekend?
– Are you so caught up in regrets of the past that you prevent opportunity blossoming in the present?
– Are the opinions of others, formed through actions you took in the past, stopping you being who you (are) want to be in the present?
We are all unavoidably victims of time to some degree, because it has become the accepted state of norm in our fast-paced, highly motivated and highly-strung society. And for this reason it is important that we understand that to not be present is to be torn between two worlds, the past and the future, neither of which exist. To constantly reside in this state prevents us enjoying life and finding happiness.
If you allow yourself to be a victim of time – a victim of the past and a slave to a future that is yet to unravel – you will carry with you a sense of unease. You will be susceptible to stress, agitation and feel generally uncomfortable in life.
There is no redemption to be found in time.
So surrender to what is right now.
Wherever you are, commit to being there, completely. Life will take care of the rest.