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What’s The Big Deal About Being In The Present?

The mind as we all know is a faculty within us that has the capacity to stray and wander. It does not stay with what is present. There is no wonder then that it has been compared with a wild elephant or an untamed monkey. I would say it’s like a hungry animal that needs stimulating food for its palate all the time. Whenever it doesn’t get enough interesting stuff, it searches in another place.

And that is exactly why it does not like to be in the present- because there isn’t enough food for it to chew upon. The present is not always full of adventure or pleasure or even pain for that matter. 

The present may be and often is fairly neutral. You are sitting on a chair and looking at a computer screen. There is nothing greatly exciting about it. You are cooking and looking at your dish. Perhaps nothing there excites you either, at least not on all the days when you cook. 

Maybe it is just routine. You are driving down the same road to work for the hundredth time. Again what’s new there? These are the mind’s interpretations of the situation, they may not be true. 

This is how the mind works and so it strays from this neutral, neither pleasurable nor painful activity to something a bit juicier. It can stray to happier memories of the past or to a painful memory of the friend who spoke to you rudely and put you down the other day, or to fantasies of some kind. But more often than not it strays to attempt to resolve problems that are or have become a seemingly big part of your life.

So the mind goes right back to thinking about the illness you maybe going through or financial worries or relationship discomforts or rebellious or underperforming children and so on. And the mind now has something more interesting to do than to look at the boring steering wheel or computer screen or dish.

Some of us might even believe we are being productive when we frequently think about problems. We are using our mind efficiently trying to solve problems rather than blankly looking at or experiencing something neutral in the present. So what is the problem with that? Well the only thing is, not being present comes at a cost. 

Yes you think you are being productive. Or even that you are giving those aspects of your life that are more meaningful more of your time rather than wasting it doing nothing in particular. Also a lot of times you have gotten an escape from being bored. After all worrying about the stress at work is less boring than staring at a steering wheel.

Some Questions To Reflect On Being Present

“Am I present in the reality that is unfolding all around me now?”

“What is really my life? Is it not a collection of all the moments that I go through second by second”?

“If I quantified my life into moments, how many moments have really been painful and how many joyful and how many neutral”?

“Is my mind experiencing all these moments? Or is it stuck in a few”?

These questions help us see that very often the amount of “Mind Space” we dedicate to problems is a hundredfold greater than the amount of time the problems really exist. We are often worrying about something that has happened in the past and brooding over why it happened that way with us or with those close to us or something in the future that we fear may happen and ruin our peace of mind.

Protect Your Peace Of Mind: Be Present

The cost of not being present

Aren’t you missing the minutes that pass you by unnoticed as you live in some time-frame of the past or the future?

An analogy I often give my clients in therapy when I find them preoccupied with thoughts of future anxieties is:

“If you are walking down a road, always extremely focused on your destination and very conscious of all the potential potholes that you might fall in on your way, it is very likely you will miss the flowers that bloom on the sidewalk or the beautiful litter of puppies with beady eyes that just came into existence a few minutes ago”.

In other words, we just miss the joy and beauty that life seems to offer us in the present. And this is just one small part of our loss.

The other problem, is in our mind, all those negatives that we are trying to resolve are becoming our life. The pains and disappointments that belong to just a few moments or at maximum a few hours in a day are poisoning the rest of the time.

Very soon frustration with life grows. Life feels like a pressure and it feels unworthy of living. The joy slowly gets sucked out, leaving us with a frustrated sense of being burdened with problems to be resolved and tasks and goals to be accomplished.

Simply put, if we allow our mind to have it’s way, not realizing and becoming aware of its true nature, life will slowly become focused on a handful of problems that we jostle with all the time. And before we know it, we have lost several years or decades just struggling with those problems and regrets, getting more negative, cynical and upset with time. It’s time we looked within and found the joy of being in the neutral reality rather than in the caught-up story that our mind tells us.

We will put up another blog post soon that will be on actual steps and techniques that help in understanding the nature of the mind and more questions to reflect on that help you to come back to the present.

About the Author

This article was written by Sadia Saeed, Founder and Chief Psychologist at Inner Space. This post was consulted & approved by professional therapists practicing online therapy and counseling. 

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10 thoughts on “What’s The Big Deal About Being In The Present?”

  1. Dear Rupakshi,
    Thank you for writing in and taking interest in our work. However, at present, we do not offer internship programs at our Center.
    We wish you all the best in your efforts! 🙂
    Warm Regards.

  2. hi,

    I am doing certificate in guidance and counselling and will pursue in diploma in the same. is it possible for me to join your institute as a volunteer?

  3. Hi MK

    I do not practice any kind of Buddhism, which does not mean that I am not inspired by its philosophy 🙂
    I practice mindfulness-a concept that has its deep roots in Buddha’s understanding of life.
    This is a practice that has Indian origins and is also extensively used in western psychotherapy.

  4. Dear Sadia,

    Saw your references to Buddhism…do you by any chance practice ND’s Buddhism?

    Regards,

    MK

  5. This journey is beautiful Prasad. That I can assure you 🙂 I feel grateful that I have the opportunity of sharing mindfulness with you and others who may read this

  6. Dear Sadia

    Mindfullness is new term I learned today but I knew concet a bit which got clarified further. My gratitude for effort you have put in to explain it. Lets enjoy the journey….

  7. Hi Hussain
    You got that perfectly 🙂
    and to extend the thought a bit, sometimes we may not even have a destination clearly in mind, or even if we do there may be hurdles on the way and we may or may not be able to reach it… still if we enjoy merely observing the present as we move or stay still, as things happen around us and within us, our life is still rich with experience and therefore joyful.
    Hope this resonates with you 🙂

  8. Hi sadia! i read the post and liked it.
    You wrote that “…….i often give my clients in therapy when I find them preoccupied with thoughts of future anxieties is:

    “If you are walking down a road, always extremely focused on your destination and very conscious of all the potential potholes that you might fall in on your way, it is very likely you will miss the flowers that bloom on the sidewalk or the beautiful litter of puppies with beady eyes that just came into existence a few minutes ago”…..”

    Did you mean to highlight the point that the joy lies in the journey to your goal and not just the goal itself. Like as in, its the journey to our goal, our target that gives us joy and not just achieving the goal.
    Please correct me if im wrong.
    Thank you!

  9. Hi Rahul

    Its great to know you have stepped into the world of mindfulness, which is actually nothing but the joy of experiencing the world as it is. Like you mentioned, most of the literature on mindfulness is found on the web, but the beauty is it originates from Buddha, close to India. It is unfortunate that here we have fewer takers for such a beautiful practice, or I’d even say such a beautiful way to just “live”.
    Please keep in touch with us through the website and put in your email for receiving updates and you would know as and when we do hold a workshop for related stuff. Also maybe you just wish to come in with some friends and we could hold a small session just to get you going 🙂
    All the very best

  10. Hi,

    I just got to know of the concept of “mindfulness” by chance,but since last 3-4 days I have literally read everything about it on the net and even ordered the related book by Mark Williams,I must say even during the last 3-4 days by just concentrating on my breathing ,I have calmed down little bit though there is a while to go before the journey is completed.

    I was just checking if concept of mindfulness has got any takers in India,I came across this website,I am in Mumbai,I just wanted to check if you have workshops ,seminars etc related to this concept in near future?

    Regards,
    Rahul

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