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… is what I often hear when I talk about the power of the present moment.

Hello my dear happiness nerds, welcome back!

So, what’s so special about the present moment and how’s it supposed to help lead a happier life anyway? I’ve heard many attempts at answering this question in a compelling way, but I was never quite happy with any of them. If I hadn’t experienced the incredible benefits of the present moment myself, these attempts wouldn’t have convinced me to spend more time in it. And this might be the first part of an answer already. Instead of listening to others you might rather give the present moment a proper try to see for yourself. And with proper I mean like a 10-day meditation retreat or something comparable. Maybe three days would suffice, too, I don’t know; but definitely not just 10 minutes on an app, that’s for sure.

This post can be seen as a follow-up to my last post, so this is especially for those who wondered “what the heck?” last time 😄

When I speak about the power of the present moment then I mean that you’re in the here and now, focusing on your breath, your body sensations, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, thinking, feeling, and so on. Any or all of them. And crucially, you’re merely experiencing them, not judging them or identifying with them. If you don’t know what I mean by that then please ask me in the comments – it would take too long to get into it here.

Now, the present moment can do wonders for your happiness, because of…

All the places you can’t be

As long as you manage to be in the present moment as described above there are many unhelpful places that you aren’t visiting. For example:

  • You’re not worrying about upcoming deadlines, meetings, exams, to-dos, plans and so on, because, by definition, they are in the future and not part of the present moment. If you are worrying about any of these you’re not in the present moment as I’ve described above. How relaxing to not have to worry about all that stuff for a while, right?!
  • You’re not regretting things from the past or beating yourself up about them. Yeah, you didn’t throw in that important letter when you walked past the mail box and now you have to take a detour to do so, which will make you late for… Or, you really shouldn’t have said that horrible thing to your sister when you were fighting last week and now, she won’t return your calls and you’ve undone years of improving your relationship with her and… Or, if you just had stood up to your boss then you might have gotten that raise and could now afford… None of this is part of the present moment: You’re not at the mail box, with your sister, or in front of your boss anymore. You’re just talking to yourself in your head without even noticing it, believing every harsh word your mind is throwing at you. The present moment allows you to see this self-talk as what it merely is: Words and/or images. Fantasies. Waking dreams/nightmares. The present moment allows you to just notice them and carry on. What is actually true right now? You’re here, you’re alive, you don’t have to do anything, you may just be, and you’re ok, you’re safe. None of those regrets etc. have to affect you, because they aren’t objectively real, they’re just words and/or images in your head sometimes, and they fade if you let them go, if you simply experience what is present now.
  • You aren’t in a comparing mindset. Theodore Roosevelt allegedly said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” I agree. You’re having cake? (privileged if you are, btw). Well, there’s a 99.9% chance that it’s not the best cake you’ve ever had. Oh, it actually is the best? Well, then there’s a 99.9% chance that most other cakes in your life won’t be this good, which is sad, right? If you just experience the cake you have in front of you (or anything else for that matter) than you taste the sweetness, the aromas, the texture, and so on. Plus (though this has nothing to do with non-comparison), you observe firsthand, how every bite has a brief sweet spot of deliciousness, which then fades away. This might bring you to the insight that everything is changing all the time. The taste of cake or victory will vanish just as will all pain or loss. That’s one insight that can increase your happiness and that can become obvious by just experiencing the present moment as it unfolds and changes.

Now, you might counter the first point with something like: “But it’s important to plan and worry etc., otherwise one isn’t prepared and will more likely fail.” I agree. But let’s be honest: Probably 80-90% of that planning and worrying is unproductive. Definitely, prepare for, let’s say, an important meeting. Do it in your (home) office, take time to address all relevant points and rehearse what needs to be rehearsed. But that meeting (or whatever) won’t go much better if you worry about it on the ride home, think about it while playing with your kid, or ruminate on it while brushing your teeth. It’s moments like these that make up the 80-90% of the unproductive planning and worrying I was talking about. And similar arguments can be made for regret or comparison:

There’s a time for everything, but that time is not all the time. Coming to the present moment as described above is like turning off that loud old vacuum cleaner that you already forgot was still running. It’s a moment of such peace, clarity, and bliss that you can’t believe how long you’ve needlessly endured the noise that became your normality.

Hmm, this fist segment got longer than expected – I was going to do at least two more segments. Well, another day then. I’ve noticed that it’s really hard to answer the question briefly and maybe that’s why I also found the existing answers lackluster. A meaningful answer seems to be a thorough one in this case. Doesn’t exactly match well with today’s average attention span, but that’s just how it is right now. Let’s read more books, y’all, to change that! But who am I to preach? I don’t think I’ve read a book from cover to cover this year. Listened to, yes, but not read. I digress.

I hope you’ll give the present moment a try! Sending much love

Thomas

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18 thoughts on “And That’s Supposed to Help?!

  1. You do ramble a bit. I have no research to back me up, but I am pretty sure that looking forward is better. When you are 84 there is too much to look back on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, then you should read some of my lengthier posts ;D Do you mean that looking forward is better than being in the present moment? Or do you mean that being in the present moment is better than looking back and looking forward, but among the two, looking forward is better? Thanks for commenting 🙂

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    1. I’m not sure I agree. The momentary future of the present moment is just a new present moment, a continuous present, if you will. The future would have to be at least one moment further in the future imho, a fantasy. Or did I get you wrong?

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  2. Interesting. I haven’t had that experience yet even though I had some “hyper-aware” moments. But I’m not ruling out that it could happen.

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  3. From your points why “being in the moment” is good/positive/healthy(?), I gather that it is primarily about *not* being in other stressful or otherwise negative states. In other words, the “present moment” seems to be a label for a bunch of negations.
    However, I wonder whether it has to be this way. You do mention one specific thing that is (as opposed to isn’t) part of that momentary experience and is positive of itself, namely the immediate sensory experience: “how every bite has a brief sweet spot of deliciousness”.
    But let’s assume you are not eating cake, you are not actually having any strong sensation. For instance, you are just sitting on a chair in your living room. You would probably argue that, there is benefit in focusing on this very moment because of the absence of worries, regrets, comparisons and I am inclined to agree. But would you also find benefit in something that lies in that experience itself? To feel the chair pressing against your bottom as your weight rests upon it (shoutout to Isaac Newton, btw.), to hear the ticking of a clock in the room or your neighbors stomping around, to become aware of the smell of your own apartment… these are all neither strongly pleasant or unplesant sensations but is there worth in becoming aware of them? Intuitively, I would want to affirm that but I am not sure wheter it is just because of the absence of the negative things you wrote about.

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    1. Hi Ruedi
      That’s a truly great question, thank you! I actually wanted to include similar aspects in this post, but the post was becoming too long. That’s why I’ll add those thoughts in the next post. Regarding your example: I would affirm, too. I experienced this time and time again: Even the most profane moment can fill me with gratitude, bliss, and wonder. Not every time, far from it, but potentially? – Absolutely! Life is an ineffable miracle if you pay close attention and allow yourself to take it in. It’s hard to put in words and maybe needs to be experienced to be believed. (all this is possible without taking consciousness-enhancing substances, I might add). I’m happy to hear that you would intuitively affirm, too 🙂

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  4. My grandson is also called Thomas, and I was not aware that he had a blog. It seems, after reading your words on ‘…and that’s supposed to help’ that he was not the author of the message, for which thank you in any event.
    I read the content of your above-mentioned blog which seemed to re-emphasize everything that I believe in, however, there is much distance between meditation and action, similarly much bemused puzzlement between action and its opposite. I will read more of your offerings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, what a coincidence! 🙂 Thanks for reading and leaving this lovely comment! Definitely, the only action during meditation (ideally) is meditation. But with present moment I don’t mean meditation (as in a formal sitting on one’s meditation cushion, for example). The present moment can be attended to anywhere and always, even with zero meditation skills (even though it would be less likely and shorter without it, I think). And then, (wise) action isn’t far away.

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      1. I accept your above analysis. The present moment is the only moment I can use to change, modify, develop, plan, etc. Oftentimes, my plans do not materialise so I have to first of all identify my error in judgment and secondly revise my plan. This is a reiterative process. Keep the ideas coming.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Cool, thanks! Yeah, it’s a continous cycle of plan-do-reflect-repeat 😀 I find it hard sometimes to leave the planning in the planning phase so I tend to ruminate too much, but that’s ok 🙂 It will change in its own time.
          I will – keep the great input coming!

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  5. Thank you for this post Thomas period and for liking my blog. Bicycling is a sort of movie meditation but you can be quite stressful because you have to be aware of everything so you don’t fall or get hit by cars. I’ve done some retreats but literally cannot sit still anymore period comfortably even though I do yoga. I do listen to a meditation app every night for 5 minutes but usually fall asleep. So after a year of trying half an hour after my yoga I also gave up. I was either falling asleep or worrying too much. There would be a few moments of clarity but it just wasn’t worth it. So I think meditation is not the panacea for everyone. However maybe I’ll give it another try sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! It’s funny: You’re not the first who read my article as being about meditation. I mention meditation only once, because the article actually is about the present moment. But yeah, they are often lumped together in public discourse. I think that one can perfectly attend to the present moment during biking or doing yoga, so it’s great that those work for you! I hope you can expand the activities during which you can be present. Sitting meditation has its place, but I agree that it might not be for everyone at every point in there lives (or ever).

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