I know. If you had a nickel for every article you’ve seen about the importance of “being in the moment” you’d be rich. But read on. This one’s got a cool, useful wrinkle.
It’s about how we view being in the present moment. For most of us, ‘easier said than done’ doesn’t even begin to describe the difficulty of pulling this off.
Why? Because our minds constantly get distracted by thoughts that take us out of our moments, for reasons I’ve written about in a slew of other articles.
Most of the time we get stuck in one of these thought streams it drives us crazy. What are some examples of these torture-inducing thought hurricanes?
-Your spouse said something shitty to you on their way out the door to work. You mull over in your head, off and on all day, how pissed off you are at them and think through fifty versions of what you’ll say to them when they get home from work.
-It’s the night before your annual job review and you can’t stop thinking about it.
-You have a date in four days and you can’t stop the repeating thought cycle wondering whether he’ll be your soul mate, a complete bore with bad breath or a serial killer…Repeat cycle…
We all do this in some form or fashion. And I don’t know about you, but I find it hugely annoying, frustrating and exhausting.
What can we do? How about this? We say to ourselves something along the lines of:
“This is driving me crazy, thinking about this over and over. Let’s get the hell out of here and escape to the present moment.”
Yes. You literally look at it like you’re escaping from a bad situation. You look at the present moment as a refuge. A safe place.
What does escaping to the present moment look like? Here’s just one example:
“I’m exhausted thinking about X so let’s escape to this moment. I’m just here in my car. Driving to work. I see a black Prius in front of me, with Nebraska license plates. There’s a beautiful, billowy white cloud in the sky. My car smells like coffee. I feel my hands on the steering wheel. I hear The Eagles’ Hotel California on the radio. And I feel myself breathing. That is everything in my life right now. That’s all there is. That’s all that exists. Everything else is just a big pile of thought crap. So I’m staying right here, ensconced in this moment…”
Then, inevitably, our ego will try to spoil the party with,
“No. We’re not staying here. We need to worry about the job review. If we don’t, it won’t go well.”
To which we need to respond:
And we would be right. Ruminating and worrying about what’s up in our lives is NEVER a good thing. It doesn’t help. It grinds us down.
What does help? I’ll borrow the words of Abraham Maslow, one of the great psychologists of the 20th century:
“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.”
“But,” our ego says, “if I don’t worry about the future, bad things will happen. I need to prepare!”
For the answer to that, I’ll go to another 20th century titan, the great Indian saint, Ramana Maharshi, who said:
“Take care of the present; the future will then take care of itself.”
Can I get a Hallelujah to that?! We could live our entire lives based on that one sentence.
The key quirk here lies in viewing this as an escape. Because normally we view escape as something bad. Like we can’t handle reality so we need to go elsewhere. Only the weak need to escape.
This moment is all we have
But that isn’t true here. Why? Because the present moment is the only place where life exists. It’s always been that way and always will be.
So we’re really not escaping at all. We’re going to the one and only place we truly need to be: The present moment.
You might be thinking,
“Great. I love this. I’d love to escape to the present moment. And I think I can…But how do I stay there? I inevitably get pulled away by my Ego Goliath!”
The answer to that is simple: We practice. But before we start practicing, we need to do something first:
We need to commit to giving this attention; lots of it.
And then we practice. Every day. Each time we find ourselves trapped inside our heads in a thought storm, we escape to the present moment.
Say to yourself,
“I’m outta here. I have no interest in hanging out with this mess.”
Then just look at what’s going on in that moment. See it. Touch it. Listen to it. Hear it. Immerse yourself in it.
If you keep practicing, you’ll get better at it. Until you reach the day that there won’t be anything to escape from or to.
You’ll just be there. In the moment. Living life rather than thinking it.