What’s Hard About Living in the Present: Part 2

my favorite dayToday is Saturday, March 1, 2014

On January 29, I wrote a blog post about living in the present. At the end of the post, I said that I was going to try to do a mantra:  “It’s today.  My favorite day,” every day for a month.  Well, I did not do very well at remembering my mantra, so I have thought of something else.  I’ve set it up as an “event” on my iPhone.  Every day my iPhone will show me this mantra, so I will say it to myself at least once a day, and more if I can help it.  We’ll see how it goes.  I will report the results on April 1.

Meanwhile, I have seen some more quotes and another great illustration about living in the present moment.

 “Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry.. all forms of fear.. are caused by too much future, and not enough present. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness, and all forms of nonforgiveness are caused by too much past, and not enough present.” ― Eckhart Tolle
Here’s the way the above quote is illustrated.
too much past or futureIt really helps to see this in visual form as people carrying loads of rocks, because that’s what these negative emotions feel like: carrying a pile of rocks.  No wonder negative emotions are called “baggage” or “a heavy load.”   No wonder people who free themselves of these negative emotions say that they feel “light” and “free”!
Let’s talk about the past for a moment.  There’s nothing wrong with learning from the past, but that doesn’t mean we have to re-live it.  Think about this: You learned to walk, ride a bike, talk, and drive, but you don’t have to go to back and remember exactly how you learned to do these things every time you want to walk, go for a bike ride, talk to someone or get in your car and drive.  You don’t have to relive the nervousness or fear that you might have felt when you were learning to drive.  Reliving the feelings does not make you a better driver.  Similarly, feeling regret or embarrassment about a past mistake isn’t going to make you do better now.  Just acknowledging  that you made a mistake and knowing what you will do differently this time is all that’s required. The feelings you felt at the time were there to provide impetus for making a change.

Eckhart Tolle wrote, “The past has no power over the present moment.”   You may disagree, saying that you still feel sad or upset or embarrassed about something that happened in the past.  The problem is this: normally, original emotional responses only last a few minutes.   They exist to help you process the experience you just had or are having.  But then, the original response is over, and in order to continue feeling sad, embarrassed, upset, or regretful, we have to choose to prolong the emotional response.  Most of the time we end up making this choice unconsciously, for some reason.  We can, however, make a conscious choice to re-program our subconscious so that we don’t continue to prolong the negative emotion anymore.   In other words, the past has no power over the present, as long as you don’t allow it.   But beware, because we tend to “allow” many things subconsciously, even though we would be mortified to admit it consciously.

What about the future?  Notice that all the negative feelings are illustrated as one large rock, rather than a pile of smaller ones.  This is because unease, anxiety, tension, stress, and worry are all forms of one thing: fear.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of loss of control.  Fear of death.   If you think about all the things you have been worried about in your life and recall how the event actually played out, you have to admit that in the vast majority of cases, the actual event wasn’t nearly as bad as you had feared.  Besides, no matter how bad it was… you got through it, didn’t you?

See you again on April 1, and I’ll tell you whether the mantra has had any noticeable impact.  🙂

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