In a world where we seem to be so focused upon ‘doing’ it is easy to forget that it’s our state of mind that determines the effectiveness of our actions, depth of impact, and quality of life.
For instance, I realised:
*To truly connect with other people I had to be fully in the present moment with them.
*To perform better at anything I do then the quality of my attention is the most significant factor.
*Happiness and contentment are not circumstance dependent; they are a function of how present we are in our lives.
This article is about the greatest gift you can give, not least to yourself. That is learning to live in the present moment.
Why do we seem to sacrifice the present moment so easily?
It is paradoxical because the truth is that you can only live in the present moment. There is only now. Yet I was listening to an interview with the renowned scientist Bruce Lipton when he said something quite staggering.
Research has shown that most of us spend only 5% or less of our time being present. So, for an incredible 95% plus of the time we are thinking about the past or the future.
Of course, it can be useful to remember the past or imagine the future, but Bruce was not talking about this. He was pointing out how disengaged most people are from being present in their own lives. So, rather than all this thinking being productive, people are habitually chewing over lots of repetitive, unnecessary thoughts.
What are we trying to accomplish with all this thinking?
One way you can think about most of the thinking we do is that it is about control. We think that we need to control life. We try to think better thoughts, have better feelings, and control outcomes so that nothing bad happens to us.
The result of this is that we innocently allow the ego and its incessant negative chattering to dominate our lives.
The effect this has upon our conversations
Holding a space for someone is when we are willing to drop all of our thinking and be there with someone fully and completely. Listening with an open, clear, and curious mind.
Yet this is extremely rare indeed. Can you remember the last time someone held a space like this for you?
Instead, most people ‘steal’ a conversation. They just cannot help jumping in with what they think.
Someone tells us their dream is to retire to Spain. Instead of being deeply curious the next thing we do is get out our Spanish holiday snaps because we just know how interested they will be!
How do I stop thinking so much and live in the present moment?
I used to have a far busier mind and it could be exhausting. I tried all sorts of approaches to experiencing a quieter mind, including meditating twice a day for over twelve years.
Some of what I did helped but not enough.
I found that the problem with asking a “How?” question is that it seems to imply you need to do something. Yet just as you cannot slow your bike by peddling faster you cannot experience a quiet mind and live in the present moment by doing more thinking.
Steve Chandler in his book, ‘Death Wish‘, observed, “The problem in life starts when you think you have to add something to the present moment to make it better.”
The “How?” is simply stopping.
Being willing to stop comes from understanding. Otherwise, we will be continually hijacked by the ego’s idea that if we don’t control our world (by thinking our way through it), it will all end in tears.
Surrendering to something greater than our personal ego mind
In ‘The Power of Now‘, Eckhart Tolle wrote:
“There is clearly an intelligence at work that is far greater than your mind. How can a simple human cell measuring 1/1000 of an inch across contain instructions within its DNA that would fill 1000 books of 600 pages each? The more we learn about the workings of the body, the more we realize just how vast is the intelligence at work within it and how little we know. When the mind reconnects with that, it becomes a most wonderful tool. It then serves something greater than itself.”
To think that the ego, with all its insecurities, anxieties, and fears could out think or produce superior thinking than the intelligence of the entire universe is laughable. Yet the ego is quite happy for you to think it is God. This is how it maintains its importance.
It is only when we begin to wake up to the illusory nature of thought that we stop being controlled by it. Someone I know once astutely observed:
“The ultimate in narcissism is believing every thought because I thought it.”
Of course, we will all experience low moods, negative thoughts, and feel afraid at times, but instead of trying to think your way out of this, which will ultimately fail, welcome it all.
See it, welcome it, and allow it to pass through you. It takes just ninety seconds for a thought to dissipate. Surely, we can all wait for ninety seconds?
It is OK to surrender
Some people think of surrendering as showing weakness. They think that resilience is fighting and never giving in.
My question to this is, ‘How is that working out for you?’ And the answer, as it was for me, is always the same, ‘Not very well.’
Why? Because fighting your thoughts is like punching smoke.
Surrendering does not mean you are giving in. It is actually the greatest gift you can ever give yourself because you cannot live in the present moment until you do.
The present moment is not a destination. It has nothing to do with time. Because you are already here.
Yet to experience what the present moment really is – love, connection, peace of mind, contentment, freedom from fear, and being your true self – means dropping the stories.
P.S. Why did I stop meditating? Click here.