In the wise words of Master Ooguay from Kung Fu Panda, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery and today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present”. Pretty deep for an animated movie I would say, but solid nonetheless.
He is simply talking about mindfulness, consciousness, being, awareness or presence. All these synonyms point to the same thing. Be where you are! This is such a simple concept, but most of us miss the mark for the majority of the time we are awake. Between technology, constant stimulation and levels of ever increasing life “stresses” we unfortunately end up in a state of unconsciousness. We end up in a place where we are not aware of the thoughts we are thinking, the actions we are taking or emotions we are feeling. We become numb. In that numbness we increase our levels of stress, which incidentally turn out to be negative thoughts about the past or the future, because we have this terrible affliction being unable to stop thinking. Thinking becomes impulsive. We don’t take the time to teach ourselves not to think. I’m not saying thinking about the past or the future is bad. We need to think about the past and the future, but only practically. We only need to reflect on the past so we don’t repeat mistakes we made in the past or to learn and we only need to project so we have a plan for the future, but we must learn not to dwell on either. That is when stress arises.
Thinking negative thoughts about things we cannot change. We cannot change the past and we cannot always predict the future. If we could life would be extremely boring. All the while, we have one foot in the future and one foot in the past we are pissing all over the present. We are missing the little things that make life fun and exciting and beautiful and worthwhile.
So how can we use the past and future practically and still be present?
The first step to being present is to surrender to the fact that we cannot change the past and we have no control over the future. If we can surrender to this notion and realize that everything happens in the present, only then can we give 100% attention to what we are doing. Everything that happened in the past happened in that present moment and everything that will happen in the future will happen in the present. Nothing has ever happened in the past or the future. It has always been in the present. The sooner we realize that the sooner we can really begin to be.
When we are mindful, we can then stop living in the past whether that be reliving former glories or feeling guilt for past transgressions. “I can’t believe I ate that pizza” and then we spiral out of control. If we are conscious of that decision we can then be aware the next time that circumstance arises and choose to make a different decision. When we are conscious of our thoughts or watching our ego which what most of our thoughts are we can stop projecting into the future, creating drama and telling ourselves those crazy elaborate stories we tell ourselves. “I’ll be happy when I lose 10 lbs”. It’s perfectly ok for you to be happy right now. It is simply your thoughts that are keeping you from being happy. By being present we can still have goals that we want to accomplish that will satisfy the ego, but we need not be concerned with the fruits of our labor at that point. We need only be concerned with the action because the how is always more important that the what.
I was talking with a client a couple of days ago and he mentioned the word normal. For me, insanity is the new normal. I say this because most of us are unconscious. We are not aware and present. We all want to change our outside form. We all want stuff. Fancy cars and nice houses, constantly keeping up appearances without a thought of change on an inner level. If we don’t begin to change on the inside, become conscious, the actions we take will be of little significance. Without inner change, we will recreate a modified version our same world over and over again.
For techniques on how to be mindful, check out our Mindfulness Challenge of the Week every week.
Thanks for reading.