That Elusive Present Moment

When I started meditating in college back in the late 70’s, nobody ever mentioned “staying in the present.” I assume that’s what the mantra was for. Now, the emphasis is all on “staying in the present moment.” I totally get the idea – it’s pointless to bash yourself over old stupid mistakes or worry about the future. But when we’re told to steer clear of the past and future, like the pink gorilla we should ignore, it only further exposes our pitiful ability at self-control. My clients get very uptight about trying to “stay in the present tense,” and for good reason…it doesn’t last that long. Even thought all the mindfulness gurus will come down on me for this, I tell my clients to forget about trying to “stay in the present.”  Here’s why…

Samuel Johnson, one of the greatest moralists in modern times said it perfectly. He wrote, “…almost all that we can be said to enjoy is past or future; the present is in perpetual motion, leaves us as soon as it arrives, ceases to be present before its presence is well-perceived, and is only known to have existed by the efforts which it leaves behind.”

So, I suggest we stop struggling to stay in the moment (just about impossible) and grasping for “the present.” Instead, wrap yourself around the task at hand, give it all your thought and concentration, especially if it’s an odious task, and hope it will be over with…now.


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