29. The Present
The present which is here and now Such wise one should aspire to win What never can be lost nor shaken.
Buddha (the founder of Buddhism, 6c BCE)
This area focuses on what it really means to be present (being ‘here and now’) and why it matters. Attention and concentration will also be addressed as they are closely related to this subject.
Although we are always physically present, our mind can wander off away from the present and focus on the past, future, other places and situations, or day-dream. This ability has some advantages: we can plan, process or mentally escape from what we find difficult, unpleasant or boring. However, if we make a habit of it, the result is the opposite. The very feelings we are trying to avoid (e.g. boredom) can become more intense and more frequent. But this is not all, staying in the present has other benefits:
- It increases our awareness and control of the situation and minimises absentmindedness and clumsiness.
- It reduces stress, anxiety and worrying.
- We only really live in the present, so being ‘here and now’ enables us to live life fully.
This exercise can help us develop this ability:
Living mindfully can be practised in many situations (e.g. while doing house chores, walking or waiting). It consists of being deliberately fully attentive to what you are experiencing or doing at that moment. Whenever you notice that you are mentally elsewhere gently bring yourself back to the present and allow yourself to be absorbed in the here and now. To get the hang of this sort of mindfulness, start with simple, undemanding activities that we often take for granted, such as walking.
Try the above now. Get up and walk around, paying full attention to your walking, breathing and any other immediate experiences.