As I sit here listening to jazz music, drinking my coffee, and watching the fog roll over the water, the mind wanders between thoughts of the past and the future. The more I ponder the more I am led to wonder; where is the future? It doesn’t truly exist. Is the future something I can grasp? Without getting too philosophical, I realize that the concrete aspect of my mind longs for the present moment of time, while the OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) plotting and planning aspect stays in the abstract realm of the future. But, isn’t the present moment fleeting? Can we truly grasp either the present or the future? By the time you read this sentence a moment has come and gone replaced by another moment and so on. As Aristotle opined, can we place our foot in and out of the exact same water in a moving stream? (for an in-depth explanation of Aristotle’s reflection click here)
Much of our stress and anxiety comes from our mentally not living in the present moment. Think of it; the next time you feel stressed reflect on what is causing that stress. My guess is that your thoughts are either on past or future moments and not the present moment. For most of us most of the time, the present moment is not stressful. Rather, it is our regrets from the past or fears of the future which contribute to our stress. Why? Because we no longer have control of the past nor can we control the future. But we can exert some control on our present moment. Our sense of a lack of control contributes to our sense of stress. How well we keep up focus on the present moment will aid in our stress reduction.
So, what can we do? Each time you feel stressful or anxious, pause (turn into the rest stop along your journey), reflect on where your thoughts are and bring your thoughts back to the present moment. Each time they wander from the present, bring them back to the present. Over time, with enough training, your thoughts will begin to stay in the present. A caveat: I am not at all saying we should ignore the future nor forego planning for the future, but that is a reflection for another blog.
Here is a quote which continues to help me along my life’s journey:
“I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly my Lord was speaking: ‘My name is I AM.’ He paused. I waited. He continued, `When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I WAS. When you live in the future with its problems and fears, it is hard. I am not there. My name is not I WILL BE. When you live in this moment it is not hard. My name is I AM.’”
Share with us those techniques you use to help your thoughts to stay in the present moment.