All you have is now – miss it and it’s gone

I was reading a blog post recently, “20 Habits of Happy People” and number ten on the list was “Live in the present”.  It reminded me of the journey I’ve been taking over the past six months or so in trying to do just that.

Future Past & Present signpost in the skyPhilosopher and neuroscientist, Sam Harris, in his talk entitled “Death and the Present Moment”, offers an interesting perspective on the present moment; he says:

“It is always now.  However much you feel you may need to plan for the future, to anticipate it, to mitigate risks, the reality of your life is now.

Now this may sound trite, […] but it’s the truth.  It’s not quite true as a matter of physics; in fact there is no ‘now’ that encompasses the entire universe.   You can’t talk about an event being simultaneously occurring here and one at the same moment occurring in Andromeda. The truth is ‘now’ is not even well defined as a matter of neurology, because we know that inputs to the brain come at different moments; and consciousness is built upon layers of inputs whose timings have to be different.  If you just consider the sensation of touching your finger to your nose: it seems simultaneous, as a matter of conscious experience, but we know that the input from the finger to the sensory cortex must take longer than the input from your nose.  And this is true no matter how short your arms or long your nose!  So the brain buffers these inputs in some way in memory and then promotes the seemingly simultaneity of consciousness.  And so our conscious awareness of the present moment is, in some relevant sense, already a memory.

But as a matter of conscious experience the reality of your life is always now.  And I think this is a liberating truth about the nature of the human mind; in fact I think there’s probably nothing more important to understand about your mind than that, if you want to be happy in this world.

The past is a memory; it’s a thought arising in the present.  The future is merely anticipated; it’s another thought arising now.  What we truly have – is this moment — and this [one].

And we spend most of our lives forgetting this truth; repudiating it, fleeing it, overlooking it.  And the horror is that we succeed.  We manage to never really connect with the present moment and find fulfilment there, because we are continually hoping to become happy in the future.  And the future never arrives.  Even when we think we’re in the present moment we’re in very subtle ways always looking over its shoulder; anticipating what’s coming next.  We’re always solving a problem.  And it’s possible to simply drop your problem.  If only for a moment; and enjoy whatever is true of your life in the present.”

Easily said perhaps; however how do you do it?  Well one  way of being able to ‘drop your problem’ and live more in the present moment is to develop your self-awareness; and one good way to do that is to practise Mindfulness.  Mindfulness helps calm your mind and allows you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings as they arise.  It gives you the skill to pause, assess situations as they arise and chose the most appropriate behaviour for your desired outcome.

So consciously develop your self-awareness to make sure you’re living in the present and not letting your life pass by without realising it.

The clock is running. Make the most of today. Time waits for no man. Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” – from the book “Sun Dials and Roses of Yesterday” by Alice Morse Earle (1902)

Mike Jones specialises in developing Emotional Intelligence.  If you would like help to improve your self-awareness and self-control call him now on +44 (0)1908 509088 or email mike@potentialmatters.co.uk.

About Mike Jones

Mike Jones is an executive coach specialising in developing Emotional Intelligence through transitional and performance coaching. You can contact him directly on +44(0)7747 011 589 or via mike@potentialmatters.co.uk

3 Comments

  • 16 Apr 2013 | Permalink | Reply

    Such simple, but important, advice! I had a friend who was diagnosed with cancer at age 27, when she was pregnant with her first child. They said she would not see his first birthday – in fact she died when he was nearly five. I used to wonder how she managed – more than managed – how she lived such a fabulous, happy, and packed life when she was so ill and when she knew what her future held. She told me that when things were bad, she would just stop and think about “right now” and realise that “right now” was ok. In five minutes’ time didn’t matter yet, “right now” she was ok.

  • 16 Apr 2013 | Permalink | Reply

    There is a beautiful Sanskrit poem that I try to live by. Google “Look well to this day, for it is life” and you will find it.

    • 16 Apr 2013 | Permalink | Reply

      Yes I like that one Joanna …

      “Look well to this day, for it is life, the very life of life. In it lies all the realities and verities of existence: the bliss of growth, the glory of action, splendor of beauty. For yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow only a vision. But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this day, for it and it alone is life! Such is the salutation of the dawn.”

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