Have you ever watched a child at Christmas? The excitement of wondering what’s in the pretty package, getting to rip up and destroy wrapping paper without getting in trouble, and their looks of delight, disappointment or perhaps even despair at the contents? This is a prime example of mindfulness – being completely involved in the present moment.
Humans are born living in the moment. Babies cry when they need something and don’t cry when they are content. A toddler deals with only what is in front of him at the time. Parents keep their schedules and cue them when they need to be doing something else. Somewhere along the way, we lose our ability to deal with only the present moment, instead of living in the past or imagined future. It gets conditioned out of us – by teachers, parents, society – as we are encouraged to judge everything in our lives as good or bad and to make goals for the future and look to the past for learning experiences.
There’s nothing wrong with having goals; it gives us something to move forward toward. But when we get stuck in the “what if”s, which keeps our consciousness in the imagined future (and usually these fabricated situations are negative), we create a atmosphere of anxiety for ourselves. Anxiety is just the fear of the unknown, such as the future, which we don’t have any guarantees about. Most of the awful “what if”s don’t happen, and if they do, we find that we can handle them in the present moment. It’s the anticipatory anxiety and images of the worst-case scenario that keep us in such an unpleasant feeling state. Letting go of these things and focusing on right now (which you can always handle) will keep anxiety and fear at bay.
Learning from the past is also a helpful tool. We usually base our current actions on things we have experienced in the past, whether successful or not. However, we lose the present moment when we dwell on the past, mentally pouring over things that we wish had gone differently, which causes sadness and even depression. There’s no rewind button in real life. What has happened in the past already happened and cannot be changed, no matter how badly you want it to. Letting go of these unchangeable facts and concentrating on the present (in which you can use the past to know what not to do) will keep sadness and depression away.
The present is indeed a gift. It’s what’s going on now. It’s losing yourself in what you are doing so that time becomes irrelevant. It’s feeling happy and content with what’s happening in this moment. Happiness, inner peace and contentment is only available in the present moment. And this moment is always accessible – just be here, now.