Imagine this: a group of people all gathered in a circle confessing to one another, “Hello, my name is ______ and I struggle with living in the moment.” Sounds silly right? Sure it’s not Alcoholics Anonymous, but I could list a number of people, myself included, who struggle with this issue.
I recently came across a quote by French Film Director Marcel Pagnol that said, “The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they will always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.” This quote really got me thinking about what it means to be present in the moment.
My personality is pretty “Type A,” and I have a hard time relaxing until all my cards are in order. I always feel, even somewhat subconsciously, that I need to plan out my days, my weeks, and my months in advance. Spontaneity is not exactly my strong suit. My ability to plan fuels my drive, but it also kills my spark. It causes me to be ambitious, to seek out opportunities, to accomplish goals, and to always be prepared. A positive thing, you would think, right? And it is… but it also causes me to worry, to be anxious, and to spend less time focusing on where I’m at now.
The dictionary definition of future is “the time that is yet to come” — “yet to come” isn’t here yet, so why do we waste so much energy thinking about it? There is nothing wrong with planning, in fact it’s quite necessary (especially in college) to ensure you are meeting deadlines and making wise choices that will lend to a bright future. But by always looking so far ahead, we eliminate the ability to simply enjoy the beauty of the present moment.
Eckhart Tolle, author of the New York times bestseller The Power of Now: a guide to spiritual enlightenment, explains that “Accessing the deepest self, the true self, can be learned by freeing ourselves from the conflicting, unreasonable demands of the mind and living present, fully, and intensely, in the Now.” You know those people you meet who just glow, who sparkle, who are absolutely, positively contagious to be around? I really believe those people are so great because their whole selves, not part of their selves, but their whole entire selves are present in the moment.
So here’s the challenge: spend less time relishing the good old days or fearing the unknown and instead enjoy where you’re at now. Pray, meditate, take part in your favorite hobby, or make a list of every current thing in your life for which you are thankful. The present can be frustrating, painful, tedious, sometimes maybe even a little boring. But it is real. And that’s what makes it beautiful.
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Do you find it hard to live in the present moment? What do you do to help you focus on the now?