I’m sure you’ve read so far about living in the present. Many, Buddhists, meditators, Echart Tolle, and many, many others talk about it. That is indeed true. The only way to be happy, fulfilled and mentally healthy is to live in the present moment, now and here. But what does that really mean and how can we achieve it in practice? What obstacles do we need to remove so that we can really live in the present moment? These are some questions I will answer in this text.
Living in the present moment does not mean not having a past and not planning your future. To live in the present only means not to be bound, not to be a slave to the “past and future”. Sounds very simple and logical, right? But then why don’t many people succeed? Why do many still live most of their existence in the “past and future”?
The past and the future are constructs of the mind
Why do I put “past” and “future” under quotation marks? Because they do not exist in reality. If you live in the “past or future”, you are actually living in your thoughts, in your imagination, in your mind. In reality, there is only the present and nothing more. The past implies mental reconstruction and memories of events that once happened. The future refers to imagining something hypothetical that we want or do not want to happen to us. This means that both the past and the future are only constructions of the mind, created thanks to the imagination.
In order to construct some experiences through imagination, it is necessary to concentrate, to immerse ourselves in those imaginations in order to create, deepen and create emotions and bodily sensations. This means that it requires a conscious effort. If we do not delve into our own thoughts and emotions, they soon disappear, disappear and fade. You keep this fact in mind when thoughts and emotions reappear in your mind. Try to focus your attention on something that is happening in the present, but at the same time do not resist the thoughts and feelings that are there, because they are also there in the present moment. Just don’t deal with them and you’ll see what happens. Try this little experiment with some emotions of moderate intensity. If you have strong negative emotions and negative thoughts that keep recurring, first learn how to deal with them.
The human mind has the ability to imagine, the ability to imagine things that do not exist in the present moment. Our mind can create mental images, thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. These four elements make up each of our conscious experiences. When some of these experiences, which we create in the mind, are accompanied by strong emotions and bodily sensations, we have the experience, that is, the impression that what we imagine is real. People have an implicit tendency to declare everything they experience in their mind and body to be a reality, to be absolute truth. For example, if I feel fear, it means that the situation I am in at the moment is dangerous. Is that enough? No, but when people experience emotions, they often forget that those experiences are a consequence of what they imagine, and not necessarily what is really happening outside of their mind.
It is this subjective reality created in the mind. Subjective reality is not the same as the outside world. Anyone who wants to get out of the inner matrix and the world of imagination in order to live in the present should learn that when he automatically and habitually enters his world of imagination, he reminds himself of the difference between imagination and reality.
Why is it dangerous to live in a world of imagination?
Imagination in itself is not good or bad. Whether it benefits us or pushes us into suffering depends on the way we use it. Imagination is like fire – a good servant, but an evil master. The ability of imagination is both a gift and a curse that we humans have. It is a gift because all scientific discoveries and all works of art were created with the help of imagination. Every act of creation is a product of imagination.
Just as it is true that creativity is a product of imagination, it is also true that all suffering is a product of imagination. Animals do not have the ability to imagine, so they do not suffer and live exclusively in the present. Animals can feel pain, but not suffering because it requires imagination. People suffer emotionally because they immerse themselves in the world of their imagination and thus create, maintain and deepen negative emotions, passions, and repetitive negative thoughts.
Imagination in itself is not dangerous or harmful, but it is dangerous to live in the imagination and not know how to make a clear distinction between the world of imagination and reality. Most people live in an imagination that recreates itself over and over again creating emotions, thoughts, and desires.
What makes us trapped in the “past and future”?
Many talks about why it is harmful to live in the “future or past”, but rarely does anyone say why we are hostages of the “past and future” and how to get out of that vicious circle? The reason we live in the “future or the past” is attachment.
There are two types of attachments:
• attachment to what we want
• attachment to what we don’t want
Attachment to the beautiful, pleasant, attachment to what we want
Attachment to what we want is attachment to beautiful moments from the past, something beautiful that we had, and now don’t have anymore. There is also a connection to what we would like to have in our lives, but we still don’t have it. It is very difficult for people to give up something beautiful, something that gives them pleasure, it is difficult to give up something they love. People are clinging to it and don’t want to let it go. It’s an attachment.
Here is an example for you. Ask yourself, do you have any fond memories of life? I’m sure you have. Another question, would you like to let them go, that is, to let go of those beautiful feelings that bind you to those memories, to those pictures from the past? I’m sure you answered NO. Now ask yourself, why don’t you let those beautiful memories and those beautiful feelings go? Why do you keep them, why do you cling to them? You do this because you think that if you let them go, they are spent (and they certainly will if you let them go) that you will lose something precious, that you will become impoverished. That you will lose a part of yourself because you have identified with those feelings and memories because you have identified with your life story. That’s what we all do.
Holding on to something that no longer exists or something that has not yet come, holds us, hostage, to the “past or future”, that is, holds us hostage to our inner world of imagination. Staying in that world of imagination, we don’t really feel our authentic presence. We cannot live in the imagination and in the present moment at the same time. Life in the present moment is a life without imagination. Only in the present moment can we experience true happiness and fulfillment. We can never find fulfillment, happiness, and peace in the imagination. Only in the present can we feel our presence.
Attachment to pain
Attachment to pain also exists as there is attachment to beauty. How is it possible? So don’t people want to avoid pain, not keep it and maintain it? Yes, people want to avoid pain and by running away from it, they actually unconsciously maintain it, feed it and recreate it over and over again. Pain as well as pleasure, they die, they disappear, they melt if we don’t cling to them.
Every time we want to avoid pain or discomfort, we actually maintain it. How? The more I try to escape the pain, the more it comes back to me, persistently and persistently, because I persistently try not to feel it, to avoid it, to control it. But, in fact, he controls me like that, because I won’t let him come, I won’t let myself feel him completely and let him go.
One professor described it through one simple and brilliant metaphor. He asked his students what would happen if they held a glass of water in their hands for 15 minutes. What would happen if you held that glass in your hand for two hours? What would happen if you did it all day? A glass of water weighs only about 200 grams. What would happen if you held a barrel with a content of about 100 kilos in your hand?
It’s the same with pain. Imagine how uncomfortable it is when you keep so much pain inside you, you accumulate it and don’t let it go, because you believe that avoiding pain is the solution to pain. You mistakenly believe that you will get rid of the pain by avoiding it.
What do you need to do with the pain to really get rid of it? You need to accept it. What does it mean? You need to feel it as strongly as you can when it appears, embrace it with your hoops, feel it without resistance and let anything happen. And it will happen, the pain will pass if you do not resist it, if you do not control it and if you do not try to avoid it.
Is meditation enough to return to the present moment?
It’s not. While meditation is a great thing, it is not enough to meditate to anchor yourself permanently in the present moment. Meditation is a means to return to the present moment, to bypass thoughts, imagination, and mind, in order to return to the now and here. However, this only lasts temporarily, only while you are meditating. Then you will quickly return to your old mental habits, you will return to your imagination.
Meditation leads to enlightenment (life without emotional suffering, now and here), but in an exclusively experiential way. That’s OK, but it’s a very slow and difficult road.
To learn to live in the present moment, it is not enough to just feel the present moment and get rid of attachments to thoughts and emotions in the short term. We need to have some insights that will change our perception and allow us to easily return to the present moment when we spontaneously and automatically slipped out of it and re-entered the world of imagination, the world of thoughts and emotions.
Can we be completely free of mind, imagination, and thoughts? Of course, we can’t. What is realistic to expect and what can we really do?
We can learn that:
• we make a clear line between reality and imagination, the present moment and the “past/future”
• to learn to really control our thoughts by not indulging in them, by learning to control our attention. Who knows how to control his attention, he knows how to control himself, his inner world.
• to let go of the pain and let it go, so that it does not return again
• let go of our desires that we cannot fulfill so that we do not suffer because of it
• feel outside the identity we have adopted during development
How can we free ourselves from attachment so that we can live in the peace of the present moment?
Getting rid of attachments is a process and will certainly not happen overnight. That’s why it’s called attachment. Attachment is a habit that we have created since we were little, and we have been practicing this habit almost all our lives. So it takes time and practice to get rid of those habits, gradually. Liberation from attachment means acceptance, distancing oneself from the inner world of imagination, accepting emotions, and giving up desires.
Acceptance of feelings
What do accepting feelings mean? Accepting feelings means feeling and letting the feelings go, not trying to hold them back, diminish them, drive them away, or control them in any way. To succeed in this, you need to make a clear distinction between what you feel in your mind-body and the reality outside of you.
Second, you need to know why you are doing it. Feelings do not need to be controlled, because then they will control you. Feelings should be experienced and let go, and only then think about them, if it is really necessary. Analyzing feelings and yourself as you experience them is not productive.
You need to know that your feelings are not facts or truths about you and your life. You don’t have to act in accordance with them, you don’t have to take them too seriously and literally. You are not your life story and the feelings that are a reaction to that story. Your feelings are just the way you are taught to react and by letting them go, you are actually learning not to react that way anymore. Learning is a gradual process, there are no instant solutions.
Giving up desires
This is the most difficult part for many, but also the most important. Giving up desires means becoming aware of your desires and giving up on them if they cannot be realized. People never suffer because they don’t have something, but they suffer because they believe that they have to have something, that they need it.
Unhappiness and pain arise from that conflict. I have to have X, and I don’t have X. For example, other people have to respect me, that’s what I need to respect myself. Is that really so? Do you really need to have an X? Why? What if you don’t get an X? Ask yourself these questions, and instead of X, think of desires that you have not satisfied.
If you give up insisting that you have something you can’t have, the internal conflict will disappear, and with it the suffering and pain. You can be happy even without fulfilled wishes. What you need is not to fulfill your every wish, but to learn how to give them up. Think about it seriously.
What does it look like in real life?
On the one hand, you and your desires, passions, dreams, and fantasies. On the other hand, there is life, reality, other people, and circumstances that you mostly cannot control. Between the two, there is often a conflict, a negative charge – this happens when the two are in conflict. Life does not give you what you want. In that case, two scenarios are possible.
The first is that you continue to insist on getting what you want and suffer a lot because of it. Also, sometimes it is possible that persistence leads you to get what you wanted, one way or another. This scenario is painful and painful and hides a problem. The problem is that if you follow this philosophy in life, you will have a lot of headaches because life will often offer you something that is not in line with your desires.
Secondly, believing in the philosophy that happiness is a consequence of fulfilling your desires, you will be happy for a very short time. Reconsider your belief: I will be happy when I get what I want. Ask yourself: What really happens when you get what you want? Do you feel pleasure? How intense? How much does that pleasure really hide? How much satisfaction is that compared to the torment, uncertainty, and anxiety you felt while waiting for your wish to come true?
It is a Pyrrhic victory (a victory gained with huge losses that weaken the victor more than the defeated. It was named after the victory of the Epirus king Pyrrhus over the Romans, at Asculum, from which he emerged weakened than the Romans, around 300 BC).
And when your wish comes true, you are again looking for a new goal. Never-ending, why? Because true fulfillment does not come from satisfying a desire. True satisfaction and fulfillment come from living continuously in the present in peace, serenity, and not attachment to pleasures and pain.
Satisfaction Vs. the pain
Pleasure and pain are inextricably linked. Just as the letter and the head are different sides of the same coin, pain and pleasure are part of one whole. He who strives for pleasure avoids pain. He who avoids pain will have more pain and less pleasure. Whoever tries to control pain, pain rules him and he automatically has less pleasure.
Pain and pleasure are integral and inevitable parts of life. You should not avoid, control or keep them, because that is how you become attached to them, and that is a trap. Life is a river of pleasure and pain that alternate. If you let that river flow unhindered, you will be happy.
Another scenario is that when you notice that you are suffering because of something you do not have, you learn to give up on how you would not suffer anymore.
When I find myself in this or a similar situation, I remember one of my guiding ideas:
“God has some other plans for you”!
I hope you liked the content about life in the present moment?
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