… 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 (called “The place that you are” and “The miracle of the present moment”). 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
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