Time can seem like such a simple thing. We look at our mobile and see what time it is. We call our friend on the other side of the planet and, as long as we know what time zone they’re in, we know what time it is for them. We agree that, even though their clock says one thing and ours says another, that it is the same “now”. We all live in the present. This is the one moment in which we can think, act, and be.
But what does this mean about the past? About the moments which we’ve already experienced? Those moments no longer exist. Sure, we can create records about what those moments contained. We can take photos or write notes. Our memories can be recalled – with varying degrees of accuracy – about what those events were like. But that past is gone in any real sense. It cannot be re-experienced. But how we feel and reflect upon our past is done right here in the now.
Similarly, the future is also beyond any influence. We can plan what we are going to do then. We can pray for sunshine. We can carry an umbrella in case of rain. But we cannot control the future. All we can do, in our present, is make decisions and choices which make us better prepared for the variations on what the future might bring.
The only moment we can affect is now. Right now. The moment we are in.
This is the essence of mindfulness.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the state of being fully engaged in the presence while striving to reduce judgment. It’s about being aware and open. To consider with gentle curiosity. To cradle yourself in compassion.
Mindfulness can be practiced at every moment, in every situation. When talking with another person mindfully one can hear their words and listen fully, even if the topic matter is tense. When dealing with a situation mindfully one can handle the tasks while avoiding an emotional tsunami. It’s not about ignoring one’s feelings. Rather, it’s about acknowledging, feeling them directly and exploring why those feelings arise. It’s about seeing those connections.
Only the Present Exists
So often we tie up enormous amounts of energy and emotion in things which happened in the past – things which no longer exist. Life is very short and precious. We have limited energy and hours in which we can do things and take action. To invest large amounts of that time in a past which is behind us would seem to be a shame. Yes, we can learn from those lessons. We can be aware of how we have grown and changed due to our experiences. And then we direct ourselves to make the best use of this now time as possible.
Similarly, it can become easy to get caught up in dreaming of a future. In pouring all thought and energy into a distant point. But as so many people discover, life rarely moves in a straight line and sometimes sharp curves can come out of nowhere. Certainly it’s wise to plan for the future – to keep a savings safety net and keep food in the fridge. But this should only be a portion of one’s day. It’s always important to live in the current moment. To relish what beauty, we already have to experience. To tell the people we love that we care for them.
Treasure the now.