January 13, 2017

Living in the present (but not really)

Now and then, when reading articles on self-help, self-improvement and emotional healing, I come across one particular bit of advice that seems to get repeated quite often.

That advice is: Live in the present. Let go of the past, don't worry too much about the future, focus on the here and now.

I can see the logic behind this saying. It's infinitely painful to constantly look over your shoulder, mourning lost opportunities and might-have-beens. And, as much as we might fear the future, ultimately we have little control over what time will bring. I could die tomorrow. A year from now, World War III might erupt.

However, "living in the present" seems like a strange concept to me, even though it's also the most obvious and commonplace thing in the world. Literally, physically, we all live in the present, but I don't think I've ever been able to focus entirely on the present moment. Even when I'm performing mundane tasks, my mind is always wandering somewhere in the realm of dreams and hypothetical possibilities (and no, this doesn't result in a string of spectacular kitchen catastrophes in the style of Anne of Green Gables! I've never flavored a cake with anodyne liniment yet... Well, that's perhaps because I don't bake cakes. But I cook healthy dinners from scratch regularly, and apart from one very oversalted pot of vegetable ragout, the results are usually tasty.) 

Sometimes I become bitterly caught up in analyzing past mistakes; at other times I'll enthusiastically throw myself into planning future endeavors, visualizing success long before it actually happens. My mind is always going off on tangents and jumping between several parallel streams of thought.

I rarely focus on the present. During hikes in the mountains, yes. But at other times... nope.

This may be a mistake. I don't know. But even though I read those self-improvement sites from time to time, trying to find solutions to some things that bother me, I wouldn't describe myself as an unhappy person. So maybe, just maybe, my wandering, disconnected, farsighted mind isn't something that needs to be corrected or modified.

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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