“You are too concerned with what was and what will be. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift...that's why they call it present”. Master Oogway - Kung Fu Panda
We exist only today. The present moment is the only certainty we have and need to think about.
Yet, way too often, we allow the here and now to slip away. We let time whiz by inaudibly.
We end up wasting precious seconds of our lives, worrying about the future and brooding over past events.
When we are at work we fantasize about being on vacation, when we are on vacation we worry about the work we left unfinished, or when we are pursuing a goal, we already plan the next one.
We become unable to enjoy what we do, what we already have, and what life offers us continuously.
How often have you heard or thought the following?
“One day when something I hope for happens, I will be happy and at peace".
And how often have you experienced it?
I bet never!
Because we focus on the next thing, the next achievement, the next destination, so we miss out on the journey itself.
Let me use the following inspirational story to make my point as clear as possible.
THE FINEST TEA IN THE WORLD
Once upon a time, a young man named Shu lived in a small village in the suburbs of Kyoto, Japan.
Shu was a restless soul, always seeking more from life than what his small village could offer him.
He was constantly searching for the next adventure or challenge, never content with where he was.
One day, Shu heard of a great Zen master who lived atop a nearby mountain; so, he decided that he would seek out the master.
Shu was hoping that the wise old man could help him find purpose and meaning in his life.
After a long and arduous journey, Shu finally reached the mountaintop and found the Zen master’s humble abode.
The old man welcomed Shu warmly and invited him to sit and talk.
Shu poured his heart out to the Zen master telling him of his restlessness and his constant search for something more.
The master listened patiently, then handed Shu a cup of tea.
“Drink this tea”, the master said.
He then carried on, “It is the finest in the world”.
Shu sipped the tea and was surprised to find that it tasted no different than any other cup of tea he had ever had in his life.
He told the master, but the master simply smiled.
“You see, dear son, the tea is not what is important, it is the act of drinking it, the act of being present in the moment and appreciating what is right in front of you”, the master said.
Shu realized at that moment that he had been so focused on the next adventure and the next challenge that he had missed the beauty of living in the present moment.
He thanked the Zen master and promised to live in the present and appreciate everything he already had while aiming for more.
As he descended the mountain Shu felt lighter and more content than he had been in years.
He realized that true happiness came from appreciating what was already there before seeking more.
You see, in life happiness is not simply found in the pursuit of more, but in the appreciation of what we already have.
In a nutshell, happiness is found in enjoying the present, appreciating the beauty of simplicity, and finding peace and stillness.
These values can help us find contentment and purpose in our lives no matter who we are, where we are, or what we are doing.
WHAT LIVING IN THE HERE AND NOW MEANS
The concept of "here and now" comes from the Latin locution "Hic et nunc"; a motto that echoes Horace's principle of carpe diem.
Living here and now means considering that the only concrete reality we can refer to is the one we are experiencing right now.
Warning! Living in the here and now does not equate with "living by the day," that is, without any planning or commitment, nor does it mean letting everything flow by without intervening in any way in the course of events.
Living in the here and now means focusing on the present while letting go of negative feelings, unpleasant thoughts, anxieties, and fear of failure.
Living in the here and now shares the same approach to life as mindfulness, which is to remain in a state of active, nonjudgmental presence.
To explain what this is all about simply follow the instructions in the next few lines:
Stop, whatever you are doing. Look around you. Listen to all the sounds around you. "Feel" your body: the clothes pressing against your skin, the air on your face, the watch clutched on your wrist. Focus on the taste in your mouth.
Focus on all the sensory stimuli your body receives and tune your mind exclusively to the present moment.
Try doing this for a few seconds: carefully examine everything that is happening around you. Enchant yourself in sensory observation of the present moment. Then resume reading.
It's a strange feeling, isn't it? It almost makes you uncomfortable to stop and take a few seconds just to "feel" life.
The hectic pace of everyday life, the routine, and the thousands of commitments and goals to be completed each day are not only an inexhaustible source of stress but above all, distract us from the present and from the possibility of enjoying the magic of small things. A magic that we are often unable to see and live.
Ours is the age of distraction, in which there is no room for calm and silence, in which time flows so fast that we are often unaware of our actions.
We suffer from what is called the "autopilot syndrome".
We live our days doing most things mechanically; mentally absent.
It is precisely the lack of awareness with which we approach life that leads us to the development of dissatisfaction and issues such as anxiety and stress.
Don’t get me wrong, it is perfectly normal to think about one's "yesterday" or imagine one's "tomorrow," as long as this activity represents a small parenthesis in our lives, not the main part.
Adopting the Mindfulness philosophy enables us to be mentally present, and take the burden of the past off our shoulders and the worries about the future off our hearts so that we live in “the here and now", where the magic of life happens.
HAPPINESS IS HERE AND NOW
Have you ever thought about it?
Where do we look for our happiness? Where do we set our goals?
There and then. Never in the here and now.
The very act of setting a goal suggests that we cannot be happy now.
We need something else, something more and we are willing to be happy only when we have achieved the next step.
It’s a pity that, with each goal achieved, our mind immediately searches for a new goal and another, and another in a vicious circle that makes us not so different from hamsters in a cage.
But, living in the here and now can free us from these imaginary chains we build in our minds.
By immersing ourselves completely in the present moment, living with awareness every moment of our existence everything becomes more intense.
Far from being an act of de-empowerment or passivity with respect to the future, choosing to live in the present gives us the opportunity to be more aware of ourselves, our relationships, and our surroundings, restoring our power to act effectively.
“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live”. - Dalai Lama XIV
By adopting this mindset, you will realize that living in “the here and now" is not a choice - you have nothing but the present moment.
The past does not return and the future is unknown.
Assuming this realization brings with it much serenity.
You put your heart at rest and start thinking about what you can do here and now to be happy.
You are completely immersed in the present and your only concern is to try to improve your day.
If you do that every single day, the quality of your life will improve significantly, because every single day, in every single moment, you will know that you own nothing else but your present time.
Then you'll think you might as well try to make it the best it can be, right?
Living in the here and now constantly takes practice, but the benefits it can give us are priceless. Why not give it a try, here and now?
Today is a gift, let’s be grateful and let’s make the most out of it.
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