The Buddhists call it mindfulness. The New Age refers to being in the moment or in the present. Pretty much every tradition has some version and a vast array of spiritual practices are designed to help you learn to clear your mind of extraneous thoughts and to keep your focus in the now. Mindfulness is key because you can only maintain conscious awareness of your actions and reactions and only choose your responses to life if you have your head in the present.
For me the biggest tug out of the moment has been from the past and there are two main ways it has affected me. I used to spend a huge percentage of my waking time dwelling on the past; reliving moments I’d have done differently, worrying over how I’d been done wrong by others, etc. The more subtle effect of the past comes from old beliefs and unresolved issues. As long as you have unexamined beliefs and/or buried memories then most of what you say and do is run by the muck from the past; you’re never really all the way in the current moment if your subconscious is filled with unacknowledged baggage..
I’ve done a pretty good job of eradicating the tendency to dwell on the past and when my mind moves in that direction I’m also pretty good at noticing and nudging my thoughts back to the present. The one that’s still a work in progress is letting go of old beliefs and issues. I’ve cleared enough that I’m not often drawn into a programmed reaction but there are still things that catch me.
For some thoughts about the future occupy a lot of mind space. Sometimes that’s daydreaming but often it’s worrying, plotting and planning about the future (and that’s often propelled by something from the past). That’s been a smaller problem for me but I’ve had to address it too.
When dealing with “wild” or “monkey” mind—a mind filled with a great jumble of thoughts—it’s usually full of thoughts about either the future or the past; often running the same tapes over and over for years or decades. A mind that can stay in the moment is also a mind that can stay quiet. Next post will address means to attain mindfulness.
- Finding the way to peace
- Being peace repost
- Gunaratana, Bhante Henepola, Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness (Wisdom Publications, 2001)