On Being Present

May 27, 2022

We often hear people speaking about the importance of being present, being in the now, and not letting your mind drift forward into the future or back through the past. Being present means being aware of where you are right now and living in that moment.

This prescription of being in the present moment was designed to make us happier, to help us enjoy life more, because our reality is in the present. The future has not happened yet, and the past cannot be changed. What really counts, we have been told, is only the present.

I agreed with this prescription because sometimes when someone tells me about a certain experience we have had together, I have no recollection of the experience. I remember the event but not the experience. Perhaps while we were there,  and having that experience, my mind was somewhere else—dealing with something from the past or trying to analyze the future. 

I have tried to be present. While out walking, I have forced myself to stop thinking and notice the flowers, the clouds, and the people I was passing. But I have found this to be difficult. My mind would naturally wander from the present to the forbidden past or future; because when you think about it, there really is no present. The present is at most a micro-second interval between the past and the future. As time passes, your future becomes your past. So, it is easy for the mind to wander away from this elusive present.

The problem of being in the present is a problem of the mind and you cannot solve a problem that is in the mind, with the mind. The solution has to come from outside the mind. So,

Stop thinking and start feeling.

The way to feel—as opposed to thinking about how you feel, which only brings you back in an endless circle of thoughts — is to use the five senses. The senses are in the present. You cannot smell, touch, hear, see, or taste but in the present.

So, if you stop thinking and instead FEEL by focusing on what your senses are currently experiencing this will effortlessly bring you into the present moment.

Now when I walk, I stop thinking and start smelling. I actually look at what I see and touch it if I can. I listen to the birds flying overhead.

As I use my senses I start feeling. And I am where I am. I am in the present.

In modern times we spend too much time in the mind. Too many stimuli. Too many challenges are caused by the rapid rate of change. We are in our minds from the moment we wake up till we fall asleep.

No wonder we are stressed. And as the mind jumps from past to future and back again—as we endlessly plot and plan our tomorrows and review our yesterdays—time, life, passes us by and all at once we are with a wrinkled face and pain in our knees. “Where did life go?” No idea. We were not there to live it.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes