Are You Living in the Present or in the Past?

The human body is just a physical form that expresses the mental energies generated by the human mind. That is to say, when we experience something good or bad, our minds interpret it according to our different perceptions based on our senses. These perceptions are always “in the past” because the human brain can react only through the senses, and such reactions always put the perceptions in the time frame of the past. In other words, you are always living in the past, rather than living in the present, because what is happening to you right now, when perceived and interpreted by your mind, has already become a thing of the past. Your sense of immediacy is only an illusion of the mind-one of the many illusions of the human mind.

An example of an illusion of the mind is our conditioned expectation to be sick. To illustrate, if you have been hearing that over 90 percent of the seniors aged over 85 develop some form of dementia, you mind is then conditioned to “expect” dementia when you turn 85. This expectation has become some sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The explanation is that information is sent to your central nervous system, where it is then converted into mental energies to be stored in the subconscious mind. These mental energies in your subconscious mind are instrumental in directing your conscious mind.

Even though we are living in the present, our subconscious mind always relates to past events and past experiences (mental energies stored in the subconscious mind), which may create illusions or self-delusions for the conscious mind. Our actions in the present moment are directed by the conscious mind; however, the conscious mind is indirectly impacted by the subconscious mind, which is a storage of past memories and past experiences in the form of mental energies. To some extent, we are all living in the past, not living in the present.

But living in the present holds the key to the art of living well. Living in the present is being aware of the present moment. Being aware of the present moment means you are not judging, reflecting, or thinking: you are simply observing the present moment in which you find yourself. Moments are like a human breath, coming in and going out, with each breath being replaced by the next one. You are there with no purpose other than being awake and aware of that particular moment. Being aware of your breath is the first step towards mindfuness of the present. And meditation does just that-keeping your conscious mind fully aware of the present moment through focusing on each breath, coming in and going out. Just like your breath, the present moment comes and goes. The rhythm of your breath puts your mind into a trance: you seem to go far away, but, in reality, you are still here. Nothing has changed: the present moment simply repeats itself. The past is gone, and there is nothing you can do about it; the future is not yet here, so there is no need to worry about it. There is only the present moment, and it continues to repeat itself. It is in this sublime state of mind that your mind can truly relax. The only gift of life you have is the present moment. That is why this gift of life is called “present.” Just think about that!

Meditation is an attempt to stay in the present, even just for a brief moment, in order to go deep into the subconscious mind. In meditation, the focus is exclusively on the present moment, such that the mind becomes still, with no thoughts of the past or of the future. Only through complete silence can one access the subconscious mind. That is one reason why meditation is a means to self-enlightenment. You explore your deep subconscious mind and find out who you really are, and what your priorities in life should be. Only you have the answer, and this answer is in your subconscious mind for you to discover.

In life, living in the present means living with mindfulness, which is focusing on what you are doing at that exact present moment. Mindfulness is an amazing tool for stress management and overall physical and emotional wellness. If you always find it difficult to stop the rapid streams of thoughts flowing through your mind, you are not living in the present. The good news is that you can train your mind to live in the present by engaging in mindfulness daily activities. For example, when you are driving, concentrate your mind on the road, instead of listening to the music, or, worse, talking on the cell phone; when you are doing the dishes, concentrate on washing, and listening to the sound of water, instead of watching the television. Virtually any daily activity can be a mindfulness exercise for the mind. Without mindfulness, and without the practice of meditation, you are more like living in the past than living in the present.

Copyright (c) 2011 Stephen Lau

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