“The practice of staying present will heal you. Obsessing about how the future will turn out creates anxiety. Replaying broken scenarios from the past causes anger or sadness. Stay here, in this moment” -S. Mcnutt
What does it mean to stay in the moment? In some form or variation of words, we have all heard this term more than once throughout our lives: ‘Stay in the Moment’, ‘Be Present in the Moment’, ‘Just Be’, ‘Be in the Now’. I’m sure there are a few other versions, but they all say the same thing. Exactly what does it mean to ‘stay in the moment’?
Let’s take this discussion all the way back to the moment you were born. When you came into this world, how much did you know about anything? Pretty much nothing, except what you may have experienced in the womb, but we will just start with birth. You had no memories because you had not experienced anything yet. You had no ideas about the future because, believe it or not, our visions of the future are pretty much controlled by past experiences and memories. Visions of future experiences are constructed off of a baseline thought, memory or experience. Therefore, when you were first born into this world, you basically had nothing except for that one single moment at your birth. That being said, every one of us has experienced the ‘present now moment’ at least once in our lives. Hopefully, through this and future discussion, we can discover how to achieve moments like that, even now as adults.
When you were first born, you did not have a care in the world about anything at all, all you knew was ‘now’. After that, it only took a matter of seconds, before you were being conditioned to basically be something or someone that you are not.
“When you pull your brain back from tomorrow and your heart back from yesterday, you find peace in today”
Spend a little time to think about that statement above. We need to understand that it is virtually impossible to stop thinking about the future in some way and also just as hard to not think about past experiences and memories. That’s not what ‘being in the present moment’ is all about. Throughout our discussions, there will be several keywords that we will focus on such as balance, focus, awareness, identity, and attachment. Here, in this context, we will discuss ‘attachment’ and identity.
Stop for a moment and try to imagine what it might be like to not have any memories or any preconceived ideas of the future. The only thing your brain would be able to process is each individual moment as it is experienced. There would be no fear, no worry, no doubt, no anger, no resentment, and no hatred. Some may say that this feeling would be perfect. However, there would also be no joy, no happiness, no trust, and no hope. Now wait a minute, if I am not sad or angry then I must be happy, right? Yes, that is correct, but only if you are living in the past or the future. We are talking about the ability to live in the present moment with no memories or future visions. This may take a little while to sink in for some, but when it does, it will be an ‘aha’ moment.
The terms ‘duality’ and ‘non-duality’ will be an exciting topic for future blogs, but we will only briefly discuss it here. Simply put, our entire experience on this planet exist within a state of ‘duality’. That means with every conceivable thing or idea, there is an opposite; good-bad, hot-cold, happy-sad, angry-pleased, righteous-evil, God-devil, negative-positive and the list can go on. That would indicate that good vs. bad just like hot vs. cold are the exact same experience, only a different degree. All of that being said, without past or future thoughts, we are not only unable to process sadness, but also happiness. For a split moment when we are born, we are in a perfect state of ‘non-duality’. In Buddhism and Hinduism, a ‘state of being‘ such as this is referred to as ‘Nirvana’. In Christianity, the term ‘heaven’ could be the reference to perfection, except that heaven with most people, is more viewed as a place vs. a state of being. Let’s look at the definition of ‘Nirvana’ from vocabulary.com:
“…nirvana is the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment, meaning a person’s individual desires and suffering go away. Achieving nirvana is to make earthly feelings like suffering and desire disappear”.
When we view ‘nirvana’ from the perspective of the above definition, it definitely becomes an experience that most of us would like to have. OK, so let’s get real here for a moment. Unless our time on this earth has ended, we will most likely never experience the state of being as we had when we were firstborn. That is where the term ‘attachment’ comes into play. We have memories, good and bad, as well as visions of the future, also positive and negative. The key to this is first, ‘awareness’ and then ‘attachment’. Whatever the feeling, memory, idea or experience may be, we must first bring it to our awareness that it is there. If we attempt to avoid something, it will continue to try and get our attention and sometimes not in the most desirable way.
So, you have noticed the feeling, the emotion and the experience, what now? We decide and choose how much or how long we want to experience something by how much we attach to it. Sure, if it makes you feel good, then definitely enjoy it while it’s there. However, if you become too attached to something (even if it makes you feel good) then the effects of the opposite feelings naturally become more powerful when it’s gone. Attachment happens when we allow ourselves to ‘identify‘ with something. When we identify with something we allow a part of our existence to become one with its existence. In other words, every positive or negative aspect of one will affect the other, either positively or negatively. ‘Attachment‘ and ‘identity‘ can be used synonymously of each other. What level of mindfulness we achieve is directly related to how much we choose to attach to or identify with the experience.
In order to not make these blogs too lengthy, lets process what we have discussed and continue next time. Please, stay in touch and let me know what you think, good or bad.
“Finding yourself” is not really how it works. You aren’t a ten-dollar bill in last winter’s coat pocket. You are also not lost. Your true self is right there, buried under cultural conditioning, other people’s opinions, and inaccurate conclusions you drew as a child and adult that became your beliefs about who you are. “Finding yourself” is actually returning to yourself. An unlearning, an excavation, a remembering who you were before the world got its hands on you.