How to live consciously in the present moment, to feel at peace and notice the world around you!
It is said that time is an illusion, a construct created by man and that we only exist in the present moment. Everything else we manufacture, the past and the future. The past is made up of facts we think we can recall, colored by the emotions we believe we remember feeling. These feelings become the story we tell ourselves and others, keeping our feelings firmly in place to be felt and relived repeatedly.
We cannot know the future, but we project what we know to guess what may or may not happen down the road. We make up the future by pulling from our past experiences and projecting what we know into the unknown. The future is our projection of what might be, and we live with the belief that we will certainly be there for the experience. We make up a future because we are trying to assure ourselves that we will arrive there.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend who is one year out from her breast cancer treatment. As we discussed her recovery and how life is now, she said that when she thinks of the future, she only sees darkness, a black hole where her future once resided. She feels uncertain and worries for her family. Not seeing a lot creates uncertainty within us, and that uncertainty creates anxiety, doubt, and sadness.
How To Capture The Present
Everything we hear from experts on living a life of peace tells us that we must endeavor to live our lives in the abundance of the present moment because it is the only time that truly exists. Capturing the present moment is confusing and hard to explain because it is so fleeting before it becomes the past. How do we stay in the present moment, where all things exist? Does something stop living because I do not see or perceive them anymore? Is it even possible to stay in the present moment? These were the questions I sat pondering on a park bench in the shade of some lovely old oak trees.
I was contemplating time and how it is made up of past, present, and future, but how the hell do you learn to be here now? As I sat there, I was guided by my inner voice of wisdom to watch straight ahead, not to look left or right, and see what is right in your line of sight.
So, I did just that, only looking at those things right there in front of me, and I watched with interest as the vehicles passed me to the left and the right. My inner voice asked, what five vehicles went past? A black jeep, a delivery truck, and several cars are going in both directions. Where are they now? Gone, I do not know where. They disappeared to the left and the right of my sight as more entered my line of sight. They are now in the past; they no longer exist in my present moment, and all I can do is go inside my brain and try to remember them.
My inner voice continued, now, try to predict what kind of vehicles and how many come into your line of sight from the left and the right. This was crazy because I could not do it, I; I was strictly guessing. Until it does not exist for you until something manifests in your present, it may have existed for the person standing further down the street to the left and the right. Still, when you saw those vehicles, they had already become a memory for those who may have noticed them before or after you did. This does not mean that they do not still exist, but they are in someone else’s present moment, not your own.
Now close your eyes and listen. What do you hear? A crow, people are talking on the tennis court, the balls hitting the fence, songbirds, cars, and trucks passing by, a child laughing, and a distant dog barking.
Now think about how often you have sat on this bench and have never noticed the cars, trucks, birds, or people because you were thinking about the immediate future or the recent past. When you are in your head thinking, you miss out on all the sweetness that makes up life, like the sound of the birds, the grasshopper at your feet, and the breeze across your shoulders.
Being in the present moment requires practice. It requires not being distracted by everything that can and does distract us, like worrying about the future, ruminating on the past, and doom scrolling on our devices. It requires we make and take the time to practice, as I did with the traffic.
Whenever a thought or worry comes along, let it go and focus on what is with you now.
Worry does not change the past or the future, but it does steal the present moment from you.
I repeat the traffic exercise now, but I also turn my attention to the sounds and bodily sensations around me. I am getting better at spending time at the moment and stretching it for extended periods. When I go for walks, I often put the headphones away and make myself aware of my surroundings rather than distracting myself while I am “getting” somewhere. I find time has a way of slowing down and even standing still when I become aware of it.
Time unfolds like the petals of a flower; you cannot change how it will grow in the morning light and if you are not paying attention, you miss the flower’s beauty, the bee’s buzzing, and the fragrance that hangs in the breeze. Be present and know that you are in the sacred space of time where all the wonder exists.