The present moment is exactly what it is. Moments don’t just happen; they are constructed. At the foundation of each moment, lies all the proceeding moments. We can fiercely fight the present but not reject it; the moment still remains—just as it is.
As we accept the present with openness, curiosity, and kindness, the questions shift from, “why did this happen?” to “being this is the way it is, how shall I proceed?” By accepting the present instead of engaging in a bitter fight against it, we free mental energy to discover new creative responses. We, then, may use the present moment to constructively build a better future; and not waste precious energy seeking vengeance on a past that is already gone.
“By accepting the present instead of the bitter fighting of it, we free mental energy for creative responses.”~T. Franklin Murphy
When grappling with the moment, we misdirect productive energy projecting blame, building resentments, and wallowing in self-pity. Our energy flow should productively be blazing a path to a flourishing future. When feeling helplessness against the challenges of the present, we get discouraged.
Reflection on the Past
Valuing the present moment isn’t suggesting we don’t plan for the future or learn from the past. Time travelling to the future and reflecting on the past each has value and dangers.
We may sorrowfully revisit past choices to identify where behavioral drifting began, valuable wisdom is gained through reminiscing; but regret also looms there. Reminisce with kindness, not self-condemnation; we are human, frail and imperfect. We must time traveling to the past with care. These journeys into the past, when done without blame or judgement, help us discover how to better act in the present.
“You may not even realize it, but this tendency to get sucked into the past and the future can leave you perpetually worn out and feeling out of touch with yourself.”~Courtney E. Ackerman
Planning for the future also is fraught with dangers but essential for wellness. Plans limit unnecessary downfalls, invite blessing that take days, months and years of work, and give value to sacrifices that have sizable payoffs.
Mindfulness in the Present
The cognitive tasks of learning from the past and planning for the future can drain energy. Too much cognitive time travelling leaves us anxious, depressed, and unhappy. The cure is returning to the present, escaping the normal chatter of our mind, and mindfully dwelling in the eternal “now.”
Mark Williams, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to things as they are.” Williams adds, “each present moment can be embraced as it is, in its full depth, width, and richness, without ‘hidden agenda’ constantly judging how far our world falls short of our ideas of how we need to be” (2012). Only in the present moment can we find peace.
Present Moment Reflection is Difficult
We are naturally drawn to the past and future. Our mind wanders trying to make meaning of the past and better prepare for the future. It is our human blessing—and curse. Michael A, Tompkins, PhD., assistant clinical professor at the University of California, Berkeley, wrote, “learning to watch and wait—that is, to be mindfully aware of the present moment—doesn’t come naturally to us. Our minds don’t work that way” (2013). Our minds naturally wander.
The late Wayne Dyer wrote, “the practice of self-love begins in your mind. You must learn to control your thinking. This requires a lot of present moment awareness at the times when you are behaving in self-condemnatory kinds of ways. If you catch yourself as you are doing it, you can then begin to challenge the thought in back of your behavior” (2009, p. 54).
Books On Present Moment
Just as athletes must manage energy to perform at a high level for the entire race or game, we must budget mental resources. Our mental resources are limited. Accordingly, we must conserve how and where we devote energy. This means we must limit fretting over the past and worrying about the future, leaving enough energy for refueling in the present.
Robert Elias Najemy wrote, “.every present moment offers an opportunity to move forward toward our divine destiny. Mastering our emotional energy is one giant step in that direction” (2001, p. 56).
Science Supports Present Moment Thinking
Courtney E. Ackerman explains, “Living in the present is not just an arbitrary term or a popular phrase—it’s a recognized and evidence-backed lifestyle that psychologists are quick to recommend for those struggling with anxiety and stress in their day-to-day life” (2021).
“An easy hack to do something mindfully is to do it slowly and bring your awareness to it.”~Tomas Laurinavicius
So, yes, when life is speeding up, breaking our wellness barriers, we must slow it down. And we can only slow it down in the present. Push a pause button on the cognitive time travelling, feel the moment, enjoy the sounds, feel the warmth of the sun. Your problems are gracious, they’ll wait for you to recharge. Our present moments may not be exactly as we would like, but calming remedies richly endow each moment to rejuvenate our ailing souls.
Ackerman, C. A. (2021). How to Live in the Present Moment. Positively Positive. Published 1-30-2021. Accessed 5-25-2021.
Dyer, Wayne W. (2009). Your Erroneous Zones: Step-by-Step Advice for Escaping the Trap of Negative Thinking and Taking Control of Your Life. William Morrow Paperbacks; 1st Harper Perennial ed edition.
Najemy, Robert Elias (2001). The Psychology of Happiness: Understanding Our Selves and Others. Holistic Harmony Publishers; 4th edition.
Tompkins, Michael A. (2013). Anxiety and Avoidance: A Universal Treatment for Anxiety, Panic, and Fear. New Harbinger Publications; Workbook edition.
Williams, Mark (2012). The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. The Guilford Press; Paperback + CD-ROM edition.