“The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” — Abraham Maslow
On the other hand, we sometimes focus a lot of attention on the future, mainly worrying about future outcomes. There’s nothing wrong with planning for future goals, so long as we don’t get too caught up with circumstances beyond our control, and there are many of them. The idea is to do your planning in the present moment, carry out your plan, and be ready to make adjustments when things don’t go according to your plan.
The present moment is where we make decisions that affect the future. When we have a greater awareness of ourselves and the world around us, we can make better decisions that will lead to better outcomes.
The present moment is also where we connect with other people, especially our loved ones. Have you ever been with someone who is physically present, but his mind is somewhere else? You try to get through, but you can’t. If this is a loved one, it can be painful because he is beyond your reach. This is especially painful for a young child.
If we want to connect with our loved ones, then we need to be fully present. If we’re caught up in the past, or the future, then we cannot be there for them. We are also not fully in touch with ourselves.
Our goal as spiritual beings is to live deeply in the present moment, to be fully in touch with ourselves, other people, and the rest of the world.
Why Is It so Hard to Live in the Present Moment?
So, if the present moment is so wonderful, why do we have such a hard time staying in it? There are several reasons.
Throughout our daily activities, we are continuously bombarded by social influences. Our work and family constantly demand our attention. Most of us have little time for ourselves.
Thinking about the past and future is a habit. We like to indulge in pleasurable memories and fantasies. The past can bring us pleasant memories, and the future brings us hope of better times to come.
3. Mental agitation.
With our busy lives comes a great deal of mental stimulation. Anything that touches any of our five senses will trigger a stream of thoughts, and this can overstimulate our mind, which makes it harder to slow down.
“If you were conscious, that is to say totally present in the Now, all negativity would dissolve almost instantly. It could not survive in your presence.” — Eckhart Tolle
For some of us, sitting in a quiet environment can feel lonely. So what do we do in such cases? We create noise and activity so that we’re not alone with our thoughts, and this leads to overstimulation of our mind.
5. Running from ourselves.
Some of us are not happy with ourselves. So naturally, our inclination is to distract ourselves by getting involved in activities to divert our attention.
6. Running from our suffering.
Some of us are going through painful situations that may be difficult to deal with, or we may have unresolved issues from our past that keep coming up. None of us want to feel pain, especially if we don’t know how to deal with it. So we distract ourselves.
How to Stay Grounded in the Present Moment
With so many things that distract us from the present moment, it can be a challenge to live in the here and now. Living in the present moment is kind of like a skill, and like any other skill, it takes some practice to develop.
The way we learn to live deeply in the present moment is by developing mindfulness. It may be more challenging at first, but once your awareness expands, being in the present moment will become more natural. There are several reasons for this:
1. As we gain greater clarity of the world around us, what we see happening in the present moment will attract more of our attention. We will also develop greater inner strength, and this will help us avoid being so easily distracted by unconscious influences.
2. When we’re able to see everything on a deeper level, the world becomes more exciting. We begin to see things we never saw before, and we begin to experience a new and wonderful range of emotions, such as true inner peace, deeper compassion for our fellow human beings, and a greater love for all living beings.
3. As our awareness expands, our ego will dissipate, and our consciousness will no longer be confined to our own mind. Our mind will be calm, and we’ll no longer dwell on the past, nor worry about the future. We will use our minds for more useful purposes.
Here are some mindfulness practices that will help you stay grounded in the present moment.
1. Mindfulness meditation.
Sitting meditation is the primary tool for getting ourselves back to the present moment. Mindfulness meditation gives our mind a break from all the sensory stimulation that is agitating our mind, and it allows our thoughts to settle down naturally. A typical sitting mindfulness meditation session consists of body relaxation, concentration meditation, and mindfulness meditation.
2. Emotional awareness meditation.
In this form of meditation, we focus our attention on our emotions. We begin by identifying the emotions we are experiencing, and then with our expanding awareness we explore the root causes of those emotions.
The goal is to understand ourselves better and to resolve any issues from our past so that they’re no long distractions in our conscious and unconscious mind. We can practice emotional awareness meditation as an alternative to the mindfulness meditation portion of our sitting meditation session described above.