There is a quote attributed to Thich Nhat Hanh, the spiritual leader and Zen Master: “Life is available only in the present moment.”
He is right. You live now, in the present moment, not in the past and not in the future.
You can of course, think of the past, but this happens only in your mind, not in the real world. The past is over and you cannot change it. You cannot experience the past as you experience the present.
Yes, you can bring up memories, but they are made only of thoughts and feelings. You cannot actually live in the past. Sometimes, these memories can be painful.
It is the same with the future. You can only think of the future and imagine it, but you cannot live in it.
If you try to live in the past, or worry about the future, you are missing life. You are missing the present. Learn about your past mistakes and find out how to avoid them, and make plans for the future, but your attention should be on the present.
You can only live and act in the present. You think in the present, even when you think about the past or the future. You can make changes only in the present, which will affect the future.
The Benefits of Living in the Present Moment
Life is available only in the present moment. This is the only moment that exists, and this means that you have to focus all your actions and your awareness on the present moment. Living and making things happen, happens in the now, in the present moment.
You eat in the present, work in the present and interact with people in the present moment. Becoming conscious of the present moment, and focusing it, instead of focusing on the past or future will enable to control the present and the future and enjoy them more.
When you live in the present moment, which means being aware of the present, of your actions, and of what is happening around you, enables you to be more aware of other people and of what they think. This makes it easier to get along with them.
Living in the present improves your focus and your awareness of opportunities, which otherwise you would have missed.
Focusing on the present also helps you calm your mind, because you do not allow worries, fears and stray thoughts to occupy your mind. This of course, helps you use your time more efficiently.
How to Live in the Present Moment
As Thich Nhat Hanh said, Life is available only in the present moment. To experience the present moment you need to focus on it. However, the mind does not let us do that.
The mind is often easily distracted by stray and irrelevant thoughts, by emotions and external sensations, and does not allow us to focus on the present moment and live in it.
Thoughts, worries and unimportant passing thoughts keep coming to the mind, occupy it, and distract the attention. To follow the words of Thich Nhat Hanh you need to teach your mind to focus on the present moment, and this requires some training.
What can you do in order to live in the present moment?
1. Try to focus on what you are doing. Do not for example, do one thing, while thinking about something else, such as eating while speaking on the phone, or working while daydreaming about the party tomorrow. Your actions and your thoughts should be aligned, and be related to the same subject.
We all like to daydream and that’s okay. However, do not daydream when doing something that requires your attention. You need to stay focused. Do not worry if you cannot focus on the present moment right away. Gradually, with a little perseverance and persistence you will be able to do so.
2. Meditation can take you a long way toward living in the present moment in your daily life. Meditation is suitable and most useful for everyone, for the most practical person and for the most visionary one, for people that want to achieve material success, and for people seeking a spiritual life.
Meditation helps you control your attention, disregard irrelevant thoughts, and overcome the tendency of the mind to get distracted. Even just ten minutes a day can be useful.
After practicing meditation for some time, you will discover that your mind is becoming calm and that you stay relaxed even in difficult situations. You will notice that difficult situations and difficult people do not disturb your peace as they did before.
In time, as inner peace grows, you will discover that happiness also grows, and you start enjoying being in the present moment, more than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.
I am not going to suggest a particular form or technique of meditation in this article, since there are so many techniques. However, for a start you might try one of the meditations techniques here.
Remember that life is available only in the present moment, and keep acting in accordance with these words.
Quotes about Living in the Present Moment
“Yesterday is already gone. Tomorrow is not yet here. Today is the only day available to us; it is the most important day of our lives.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“If you abandon the present moment, you cannot live the moments of your daily life deeply.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“It is possible to live happily in the here and now. So many conditions of happiness are available – more than enough for you to be happy right now. You don’t have to run into the future in order to get more.
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“The energies of mindfulness, concentration and insight can liberate us from our anxiety and worries. We let go of the past and the future, and come in touch with the wonders of the present.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
“The only time that any of us have to grow or change or feel or learn anything is in the present moment. But we are continually missing our present moments, almost willfully, by not paying attention.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
“The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.”
– Eckhart Tolle