Life is simple, but we do our darndest to make it hard. We tend to live exclusively in the past, or fortune tell about the future. So why can’t we live in the present moment? For most people, that’s a tricky thing to do. I have asked people if they can stay in the present moment, and for the most part, people don’t understand the concept. They can’t keep their mind from thinking about past or future events. From small children, our brain becomes hardwired from people we model after. If the people we’re around the most talk about and live in past events, never to repeat them, why can’t we break free of those thoughts?
We create a lot of stress from the stories we tell ourselves. We constantly ‘what if” ourselves to believe the made-up story of what’s to happen in the future. We can ‘what if’ about anything. How often have you thought about and worried about something that hasn’t happened? I’m right, aren’t I?
The past is equally stressful. We can wallow in self-pity about events from our past. In a workshop I was attending to help heal from our stories, I recall a woman with her nephew when he fell to his death while hiking. The question was asked, “how many times are you going to let your nephew die?” This woman was stuck in the past, and the question was the breakthrough she needed to move on. You can’t change past events no matter how hard you try. The one thing you can change is how you respond.
It takes work to stay in the present and let the pain go, but it is doable. While I was still working full time, people would always tell me I had a calming effect on them. I rarely got excited or upset about things I had no control over. What good would that do? If I were calm, others would naturally be calm around me. It was infectious to a degree. But inevitably, there would be situations where people’s hair would be on fire (figuratively), and life as they know it would be crumbling down around them due to thoughts about what’s to come. Nothing I would say could snap them out of it…so they suffer. It was always interesting to listen to what if only to hear that story not come close to reality.
So, what’s the secret sauce to dropping the story and ending the pain? It’s as simple as clearing the mind and staying in the present moment.
If you sit quietly without allowing your mind to wander to the past or future, you’ll have a feeling of peace without stress or pain. It’s easier said than done, especially if you have difficulty clearing your mind. Just like with meditation, it takes practice. If you can stop the story for even 5 seconds, that’s a win. You’re not looking for perfection, but instead practice and consistency. Sit with your thoughts and let them drop away until the mind is present and at peace. It’s a glorious feeling!