I think it’s fair to say that the modern world provides us with ample opportunity to think about the past or the future.
As a general rule, we tend to be socialised to think about our present actions in terms of how they may affect our future, as opposed to valuing said actions presently (in and of themselves).
With regards to the past, a different, yet equally problematic, belief is held. We tend to overthink about past events and often let them affect our present behaviour. In a sense, our present behaviour is dictated and limited by our past.
I think it is important to acknowledge the fact that we are conditioned to think in this way as a result of the society we live in. In fact, many of us go our whole lives thinking this way without even noticing.
That isn’t to say, however, that this is how we should think. In fact, I am of the belief that we absolutely should not think in this way.
Instead of thinking about the past or the future, we should concern ourselves with the present. Here’s why.
First and foremost, by concerning ourselves with the present moment we are better able to appreciate the world around us. This is the case because we no longer concern ourselves with analysing the world in terms of the past or future. Instead, we think about the world in its present totality, which enables us to see its beauty and complexity more clearly.
In a sense, by viewing the world as a present end, as opposed to a means to a future end (or a past means), we are more likely to see just how spectacular it is.
Moreover, being present ought to increase our levels of happiness. As we start to appreciate the world in its present state, we improve our attitude towards the world, thereby manifesting a more positive and accepting state of mind.
Put simply, you can generally attribute a lack of happiness to a mental (or even physical) shift away from the present. To increase your levels of happiness, you need only shift back towards the present, which’ll allow you to reap the rewards of life in the form of creativity, openness, and general calmness.
At this point, I assume many of you will have one overarching question: If being present is so amazing, how can I achieve such a state of mind? This is a question that has been grappled with since the beginning of time, and, quite frankly, it is a difficult question to answer. Nevertheless, I’ll give it a go.
My primary method for staying present is meditation. Through meditative practices I am able to persuade myself to seek for fulfilment in the present, whilst simultaneously avoiding the tendency to overvalue the past or future.
By focusing on my breathing, for example, I open myself up to the wonders of the present moment, many of which are available to me via my senses. In so doing, I feel more in touch with my surroundings, and with myself, which enables me to focus on my present activities and appreciate them more fully.
It is important to note that meditation is not an easy skill to master. Like many things, it requires persistence over a long period of time. For that reason, I always allow myself a period of time within a day to practice meditation. In my opinion, the best times to meditate are the morning and evening, but this can vary from person to person.
Whatever you choose, the key is to stick to it, in order to allow it to seamlessly become a part of your routine.
To draw things to a close, I’d like to briefly reflect on a belief put forward by Eckhart Tolle. A common mistake, says Tolle, is to devalue the present and to overvalue the next moment (similarly, we also overvalue the previous moment).
This thought has occupied my mind for some time now (hence the article), yet I do not think it is considered widely enough. Put otherwise, I believe that more people should consider the benefits of being present. If this were to happen, I believe we’d see a decline in negative feelings and problems.
I also believe we’d notice an increase in satisfaction, productivity, and kindness. Put simply, if more people were to become present, I think the world would become a better place for all of mankind.