Sabotaging the present:
We’re often prone to squandering the present moment. Do you ever find yourself doing one thing (washing the dishes, Pilates practice, making love), but thinking ahead to the next or later activity (wondering what to cook for dinner, next week’s Pilates practice making love with someone else), perhaps wanting it to stop, or wanting a process to end, being impatient to get on to something else yet carrying on with the present thing? This devalues what can be got from the current activity, taking energy, attention and potential out of the present moment, rather than giving all your attention to one thing at a time, then moving on to the next thing and giving all your attention to that. It’s just not being fully present. If you’re anything like me, this can just as easily happen during activities you enjoy doing as with those you resent – it can become an indiscriminatory and established habit.
Why would we want to go out of the present so much? Apart from the past-oriented and future-oriented patterns mentioned above, there may be present-related issues in terms of what we may be unconsciously seeking to escape from – emotion, responsibility, risk, change, adventure, the unknown, our own true potential and powerfulness -or the sheer intensity and aliveness of being fully present.
There is a seasonal and temporal aspect to this, too. Many people dislike winter, and some may not enjoy autumn or spring that much either, only really favouring summer. This means large chunks of the year may be spent wishing they were over. But we’re still going through those times – they’re not going away. Why have a sort of ‘half life’ for big chunks of time? Likewise, we may also have certain times of day that we find harder to be ‘present’ in.
It really helps to just develop a habit of noticing when you’re doing this. Can you think to yourself:
- I’m doing this now
- I’m going to be carrying on with it
- So why don’t I just accept that, and enter into it more fully?
It takes time and repetition to change these habits, but by doing so you will be able to cultivate more beneficial habitual ways of relating to the present, past and future. After all, ceaseless repetition is how you built your habits up in the first place. If you keep observing your habits and challenging them, you will definitely be able to change them. By the way, it’s not about beating yourself up about it – just gently noticing what’s happening, and gradually changing habits.
Next instalment: conclusions and summary of learning points