“The present moment is all there ever is” – Eckhart Tolle
Q. In what way are you living in the past or the future and how can you embrace the present moment?
With other Time dimension Zoom-Outs we have looked at how we can move along the line of time to the past and the future and see how things look from those vantage points. Now and here, we turn our attention fully, completely and utterly to… the present moment.
N.B You can think of this as Zooming-Out from being “somewhere else” and Zooming-In on the present moment.
A useful first question to ask is:
Q. Why should I care about and need to pay attention to the present moment?
Well, that’s not as crazy a question as it sounds. On the one hand, if all I focus on is now, then how will I ever make plans for the future, learn from the past and move towards achieving my goals – both the practically mundane goals such as paying bills and my more lofty self-actualising goals? On the other hand, it doesn’t take much introspection and analysis to realise that all there ever is, is the present moment. As such, my general experience of the present moment is going to dictate to a massive degree my experience of my life as a whole. We will return to this balancing act later but for now (pun intended) let’s assume that it’s reasonable for there to be a balance between focusing on the present moment and focusing on other things like learning from the past and constructing a future state (which will, of course, arrive as a present moment).
“Don’t see the present moment just as a stepping stone to a future that will ultimately never come because the future does not exist except as a thought in your head; the present moment is all there ever is”– Eckhart Tolle
A useful second question to ask is:
Q. What is our single biggest impediment to being in the present moment?
Hands down, the answer is our own thoughts. The thoughts we have frequently take our attention away from the present moment. What’s more, many of these thoughts will be habitual. They will take us to a different time and a different place. They will attach meaning to the present moment or make judgements which will turn the present moment it into something else other than what it purely ‘is’. Instead of being in the present moment we are off travelling on various ‘trains of thought’ and some of those may be taking us away from where should be, or really want to be.
There are many labels and descriptions for these types of thoughts:
– internal dialogue
– internal chatter
– habitual thinking
– mental commentary
– mental narrative
– mind wandering
The term ‘mental commentary’ has a certain appeal and utility as it highlights that this commentary comes from a commentator. The commentator being ourselves but from which we can step back from and listen to and indeed notice it for what it is, a commentary and not part of the action or situation itself.
The term ‘mental narrative’ also has appeal and utility in a similar way as it implies a narrator that is separate to the action or situation. Narratives can be fictional narratives and when it comes to our internal thoughts, they are almost always works of fiction. A particular narrative could be part of an overall cohesive story we have constructed or may be an incomplete fragment that is still dripping with judgement and meaning.
Such commentaries or narratives can generate significant negative emotions, dramatically limit us or derail us completely (poetic license: being derailed by a train of thought :)) And they can be habitual and/or otherwise repeat with subtle variations.
“90% of negative emotions stem from our– Eckhart Tolle
mental narrative, not the situation.”
Underpinning our mental narratives may lie perspectives. Perspectives may be forged out of mental narratives. Negative or unhelpful spirals can easily be set up this way.
“To become aligned with the present moment.– Eckhart Tolle
It involves dropping the narrative and facing the present moment directly”
Expressed as a Zoomologist, we Zoom-Out on your mental narrative and Zoom-In on the present moment.
“Make the present moment your friend and not your enemy”– Eckhart Tolle
Become aware of and alert to when your mental narrative takes over and make a negative judgement
“Watch the thinker”
Let the thoughts go – drop the narrative
Notice your breathing and that you are alive
Embrace the current moment – the current moment is your life – not your life situation or the judgements and mental narratives
Zoom-Out as a whole, and hence the way of the Zoomologist, is to have as many helpful internal narratives and perspectives as possible. And knowing when to just Zoom-Out on our mental narrative completely and Zoom-In on the present moment. As Eckhart Tolle also points out there is an optimal balance between ‘being’ and ‘doing’. Being in the present moment, fully and directly. And doing stuff, getting on with the things that need our attention and will move us towards a personal goal. Seeing and thinking in the most helpful way when required, that will support us at the ‘doing’ effectively.
“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”– Bill Keane