Living in the NOW: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow?
When you hear the phrase, “Living in the Now”, what comes to mind?
Do you think of mindfulness and being present?
Do you imagine being able to focus on the precise moment in which you are engaging and keep thoughts of the past and the future out of your head ?
Were you taught to meditate and to let thoughts come in and out but not hold on to them?
Do you believe that a life lived solely in the moment is a rich and meaningful life?
I wonder about these ideas. I know from my own experience in the world that I’ve never spent any consistent time without thoughts of the past or thoughts of the future. This in my experience is how life works. I’ll give you an example. I remember the first day of graduate school, walking in to a new situation, with a great amount of fear and trepidation. I remember thinking, “Jesus, can I do this”. I remember thinking about the 11 years I spent off and on as an undergraduate and the many times I quit school to do other things. I remember thinking that I was not the kind of guy who finished school. I remember being terrified and wondering if my new classmates would see through me and my façade of confidence and competence.
Memories of my past failures were drawn up in my head and suggested to me that I couldn’t do this. This is how identity works. We get into a situation or a moment and it draws up memories, focusing on the present is a nice idea, because it tells us that the present is all there is, this moment , this feeling, this experience. But all of us know that what and who we are in this moment, is a product of everything that we have done and every moment that came before this one.
In this situation, the memories initially drawn up were negative for me and suggested to me a negative sense of myself and my ability. Positive memory can also be drawn up in the present when we are engaged in an experience that suggests to us our healthy and accomplished past, but either way, memory is always with us and the present always brings it into the NOW.
Now, in this case, the past was beating me up and making me feel worthless by using my memory selectively to narrow and limit my sense of self.
But in that moment, I had the future, the future, a representation of my HOPE for something better, for something new, for something different. My thoughts went from the negative of the past, to the positive and hopeful idea of the future. During all of it, I was also very much in the present, meeting new friends and colleagues and settling in to class and the hope of a better life and of a better me. It was only the hope of that future that allowed me to believe that I might be able to do this, that I might be able to finish school in a way that I had never done before.
People always say things like, “This is who I am” and “This is what I do and have always done”
I find that language limiting and really unhelpful in the definition or our identities.
Instead of saying, “This is who I am” and quitting when it got too hard or too scary, I shifted my language and my thought s into, “This is what I’ve done” and “This is the way I’ve been”… PODCAST
These phrases put me into motion and created a sense of fluidity and possibility for my identity. The shift in language and the realization that live is lived on a timeline shifting from past to present to future, creates the kind of space necessary and helpful for creating the life that we all want to live and being able to be “present” in it. Present: meaning creating identities of self that support what we want and the belief in a meaningful and connected life.
We live our lives on a timeline shifting constantly between past, present, and the future. It is unavoidable and it is often our saving grace…..
Let me know what you think….