Wise words on the left from the Dalai Lama, via my friend Sandy (whose FB page I stole this from- thanks Sandy, that's what you get for being inspirational).
The words from the DL resonated with me, as living in the present is something I've been thinking quite a bit about lately, and trying to do more of. He's saying something really important here. I guess he's quite lucky too. Because if he does not quite manage to live in the present at all times (though I'm sure he does a much better job at it than most of us), as a Buddhist, he's going to have plenty of incarnations in the future, where he can come back in his next lives and have another shot at it, until he eventually gets it right.
The rest of us (ie., non Buddhists) will need to focus on living in the present in our current lives. And living in our current lives is so important. Another wise person (I've forgotten who, but I don't think it was the Dalai Lama- although a Buddhist would think this anyway) said that the majority of us live our lives like we have got another one in the bank.
What does it really mean, to be living continually in the past, or always waiting for the future? It means we are going to be frequently disappointed. And at the risk of being overly dramatic, we are not really fully alive, if we are continually living in another time and place. The past can never be recreated, and in any case, the past is always a mix of good and not so good stuff, so why would you really want to be back there?
The best thing about the past is what we have taken from it, what we have learned about ourselves, so that we can live more fully in (yes, you guessed it) the present. And conversely, to continually live in the future means we are simply missing on out on so much of the good stuff that is in our lives right here, right now. Read what the wise man at the top of the page has said about the hazzards of living only for the future- he is much more eloquent in these matters than I can ever hope to be...
Some recent research from the psychology department at Harvard University has discovered that we tend to float away from being in the present around 46% of the time. And (here's the important bit) even if we are day-dreaming about being somewhere wonderful, or doing something really fun and fantastic, we are actually less happy on those occasions. Wow.
So what do we need to do, to live in the present? I can't claim to be an expert about this, but in my line of work, I've picked up some really useful tips along the way....
1) Savor the moment. Be aware of what you are doing, right here, right now. Whatever it is you are doing, think about just that. Immerse yourself in it. To really focus in on this, describe your surroundings to yourself, state what you are actually doing, saying this out loud. (Yes, if you are not alone at the time, there is a risk you'll be considered deranged...)
2) Enjoy your body. An important ingredient for living in the present is to be satisfied with ourselves, including our bodies. Regardless of how you judge it, regardless of whether or not it's the shape or size of the one you had really hoped for. Sure, maybe it could have been fatter/thinner/shorter/taller/darker/lighter. But it works, and most of the time it does what you need it to do. Don't judge it, just enjoy it, thank it. It's hung in there with you this far. Marvel at what it can do, rather than what it can't. It's the vehicle that's getting you through this life- nothing else can do this for you. When you are looking at your body, admiring it, and valuing the genuine work of genius that it is, remind yourself too, that your body is actually living in the present at all times. It is only our minds that are drawing us to a future that hasn't happened yet, or to a past that has gone, and therefore cannot be changed.
3) "This is me doing this." We are faced with having to do all sorts of mundane things we don't want to do. Doing the dishes. Washing the car. Vacuuming. Mowing the lawn. Boring, boring, boring. Doing these things mean we are likely to easily get distracted and have our minds wander off somewhere else. And of course that is a good thing to do sometimes. But if we can stay focused on these tasks, immerse ourselves in them, they can actually become quite calming & meditative. One way to help this happen is to kick the task of with the statement ''this is me doing this...." And again, the statement will have more impact if you say it out loud- say it several times while you are doing the task.
4) Rely less on the technology. Let's face it, the technology has got us all. More and more of us are pretty much addicted now to the fancy gadgets. The computers, the i-thingies, etc etc. The Harvard research that I mentioned above also discovered that as much as we love these (and yes, I'm putting my hand up here) things, we are actually less happy when we are using them. It makes sense, because we are clearly not in the here and now when those things have our attention- their job after all, is to transport us somewhere else. Yet our lives are more satisfying, we are more content, when we live in the moment.
Yikes- reading what I've written here today, it's all getting a bit "New Age-y around here!" Never the less, these are useful and important things to think about. Good luck!
"If you worry about what might be, and wonder what might have been,you will ignore what is..." (Unknown)
"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."