Essay: How Not to Live in the Past nor the Future

The mind loves to wander off. It dislikes the present moment. It either ponders the past or fabricates the future.

Over the hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution, the mind had been conditioned to revisit the past and foresee the future for greater chances of survival. 

A photo of two persons jumping gleefully. Credit: Pixabay

There’s nothing wrong with ruminating on the past or thinking ahead. The problem is when thoughts of the past and the future become distressing.

When that happens, you may want to focus your attention on the present moment. 

The present moment is filled with details that spark joy. There are several tricks to immerse yourself in the present moment. 

Mindfulness meditation is one popular method. It usually involves focusing on your breathing to silence the mind. 

Once mastered, mindfulness meditation can make you experience euphoria in the present moment. While it is a powerful method, many people find it difficult.

Another way of anchoring yourself in the present moment is through your senses. Our senses are attached to the physical body. 

Whereas the mind is conditioned to ruminate on the past or think ahead, the physical body is anchored on the present.

It helps to take stock of our senses – what you see, smell, taste, touch, hear – and play games with them. Using our senses, we simply need to bring our attention to the little things we normally take for granted.

You can name five objects that you see and examine their shapes and colors. You may also challenge yourself to find interesting patterns within your field of vision. 

With your sense of smell, you can try smelling the air and describe the whiffs you catch. You can even simply smell your hand and notice the scent of the skin or lotion on it.

The same goes for all other senses. Take inspiration from wine connoisseurs at a wine tasting. They fully immerse their senses in the wine - studying its texture, its scent, its flavors.

You are not completely powerless when you find yourself overwhelmed by thoughts of the past or the future. Our senses can get us back to the present.

Being in the present is going back to your body and experiencing how it interacts with its environment.

Just keep in mind that all we really ever have is now. The past is past - let bygones be bygones. The future, on the other hand, is not guaranteed. You are not in control of the innumerable factors that influence the future. 

So love your senses and live in the moment.