Stuck In The Past
“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.” — George Harrison
Your mind fluctuates between a stressful thought about a future event while simultaneously recalling a thought from the past.
You’re caught in a vice-like grip buried between two thoughts which hold you captive. You abandon hope of remaining grounded in the present moment, despite your best intentions to let go of the incessant thoughts.
The above scenario is an all too familiar scene in our lives. Our minds are habitually consumed with thinking and analysing, not to mention the accompanying emotions which drive our thought patterns.
In his book A Whole New Mind, author Daniel Pink believes the future will belong to the ‘right brain’ thinkers who think in whole terms. The right brain is considered to be complete, integrated and holistic while the left is logical, analytical and objective.
Living fully in the present moment invites you to draw on your right brain which is the seat of intuition. The importance of leaning toward right brain thinking allows the integration of our sixth sense, intuition.
This faculty or subtle knowledge weaves itself throughout our life, allowing us to reconnect back to the importance of being in the present moment.
You may have heard it said the past and the future are merely illusions, since they don’t exist in the NOW.
Where are they?
The past is a memory and the future has not yet arrived. Although we continually replay aspects of our past, whether consciously or unconsciously and bring it into the present moment. Our interactions with others are referenced through past conditioning.
If a friend does not return your phone call, you may feel hurt, angry and betrayed even though there may be a logical reason for not calling. Unconsciously we are quick to jump to conclusions that we have been treated unfairly.
Our subconscious thoughts quickly recall our past hurts by creating the accompanying emotions to support the thoughts. This all happens in a split second and we fall victim to our self.
In his acclaimed book Way of The Peaceful Warrior, self-help author Dan Millman reminds us of the importance of this moment: “The time is now, the place is here. Stay in the present. You can do nothing to change the past, and the future will never come exactly as you plan or hope for.”
This Moment Is All You Have
“I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” — Abraham Maslow
In order to experience timeless health and wellbeing it is important to be centred in the moment. Those who live in the past invite mental stress which is disguised as regret, fear and anxiety.
Similarly those who are future orientated live with fear, worry and anger since they anticipate a future which never arrives as planned.
A well-known aphorism states that your body is in the present moment, so should your thoughts.
This is what is meant when one talks about the mind-body connection — integrating the mind and body so they are in harmony with one another. Mind and body cannot be united if your thoughts are anywhere but in the present moment.
It is widely accepted those who live in the past or future surrender their personal power, thus diminishing their capacity to create their ideal life circumstances.
Opportunities are lost since they are wishing for things as they used to be or hoping life will unfold in a certain way. Their minds are caught up in a battle yearning for something more.
This is evident in Dan Millman’s quote: the future never arrives as we plan or hope for. It stands to reason that we attend to the present moment with deep attentiveness.
Whilst it is good for me to espouse the virtues of living in the present moment, it is challenging to keep our attention focussed in the present, since we continually respond to our thoughts.
Such thoughts would have you know of your opposition to this moment. These thoughts, in the form of the ego convince you the present moment does not live up to what you imagined it to be, so suffering ensues.
Finding Inner Peace
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.” — Eckhart Tolle
So what can you do about it?
How can you live fully in the present?
Firstly, learn to witness your thoughts with an open heart and compassion. Many people upon noticing their thoughts are out of control respond unkindly.
Do not attempt to silence your mind since that only agitates it. Witnessing means observing without creating a dialogue to support the thoughts.
An effective way for reconnecting with oneself and to the present moment is to draw your attention to your breath.
Recall earlier I spoke about the mind-body connection?
Integrating your thoughts with your body sensations allows you to be present and aware. You shift your attention away from the incessant thoughts into your body.
Close your eyes and focus your awareness on the breath from your nostrils. Do not allow any other distractions to enter your mind. Focus on breathing in and out for five breaths. Do this as often as you need to throughout the day, when you find yourself stressed for no reason.
The practise of mindfulness allows you to reconnect to the present moment.
Mindfulness aims to tame the mind through focussed attention. So that a simple act of doing the dishes can be a rewarding experience.
Of course it takes practice and patience to become mindful, yet the rewards are certainly worth it.