One of the things I have been frequently reminded of over the last few years is the need to live in the now, and how amazingly hard that can be. We all know how much time we spend thinking about the past, and planning for, or worrying about, the future. All of this at the expense of the now, which is of course, all there really is. The past is unchangeable, and the future may look nothing like we imagine.
The other night I was reading a chapter in a book on mediation about how meditation helps prepare one for mediation by teaching you to be fully present in the now. This is critical in a mediation because of the need to keep constant tabs on the ebb and flow of energies in the room, the responses and reactions of all the participants, and all factual and emotional details you are trying to keep track of. If you let your mind wander, you’re sunk, and valuable opportunities could be lost.
So as I’m reading this chapter, the author keeps yanking me back to the present by asking questions like “what were you thinking about as you read that last page?” Over and over I realized I was not in the moment with this book. I was worrying about what a friend was going to do in the future, and I couldn’t seem to stop. I finally put the book down and went to sleep, when it became clear I wasn’t getting full value out of it.
Later, I got to thinking about when I’m good at being in the now, and when I’m not. During mediations I don’t really have a problem with it – they’re so compelling they hold your interest like little else. Other times – watching a movie, reading a book (fiction – which for me is a lot like watching a movie), having an intense conversation with a friend, making love, being in nature and/or traveling to a new place, sitting in the hot tub, cooking and enjoying great food, petting the cat, yoga, playing games with friends… those are all things that keep me firmly in the now.
Sadly, work is not one of those things, unless it’s really difficult. My mind seems to constantly wander. Any kind of chores, exercise, all lead to avoidance by escaping into the past or future. That’s not really good – if I could learn to be present while exercising, maybe I would find a way to like it more. And procrastinate less with work and chores.
Then there’s relationships. Soooo much thinking about the past and future, over the last few years. Perhaps exacerbated by being in a long-distance relationship for so long in which there was way more time to think in between visits than to actually get to enjoy it. I invested so much in that… in spite of all my efforts had really high hopes and expectations, which made the loss so much harder.
Going through that roller-coaster of emotions has left me in an interesting state. I have been noticing lately that I am much more capable of just being present with someone, even someone with romantic possibilities – and even with the person that I hoped for so greatly. Not worrying about what else they’ve been doing, not wondering where we’re going from here, just enjoying being with them or talking with them. It’s really a nice feeling and a place I’d like to be for a while. This is a true gift that I gained from that experience, and its nice to feel I have learned something about how to be present in relationships. I hope it lasts!