Why is it so liberating and important to spend time in the ‘now’, being present?
I know that I am so often dwelling about the past, or thinking about the future. Years ago this was all about the bigger things – like wondering why I’d react to a certain scenario (like moving house) and how that might be connected to my childhood experiences of moving many times and the feelings that brought up in me as a child. And I could spend many hours pondering this, talking about it with others and trying to make sense of it.
In the other extreme, I could also get lots of joy out of planning for the future – particularly around how I might furnish or design a room – and I’d go into great detail of researching what I’d want it to look and feel like. Spending many hours talking or thinking about this. Or I might day dream (as a uni student) of the jobs I’d want or the companies I’d like to work in.
I guess, there is nothing wrong with either per se. For me though, I felt like I’d spend a disproportionate amount of time either thinking about the past or the future, to the extent that I’d feel like I was missing the present. Months could go by and I couldn’t really remember what had happened in the ‘day to day’ as I’d spent so much time not feeling ‘present’. I also would get disillusioned at times, because I’d often be unsure how to bridge that gap between having these ideas and dreams in the future – but not knowing what exactly I need to do in the here and now to get there in reality, step by step.
And then the more often I’d get disillusioned, I’d then spend time mulling over what I’d missed, why I wasn’t getting closer to my aspirations and then feeling like there is no point in dreaming…. Not very helpful!
When I met my husband, I got a first glimpse of what it might look and feel like to live in the ‘now’ more: to be present and aware of opportunities as they present themselves. To be able to make choices quickly and with confidence. To have the ability and faith to just ‘go with the flow’ and try things that you think look fun or interesting.
And then I had kids. And suddenly I was propelled into the ‘present’ full force. Every day, needing to pay attention to their needs, desires and ability to be in the moment. Just like my husband, my children have been able to remind me to just slow down sometimes. To forget about the washing, the to do list, the shopping, or the chores.
Suddenly I found myself joining my children in consciously making the time to watch a snail cross the pavement and be fascinated by how Nature works. To stop everything we are doing to smell the roses that we’ve passed, or look at the rainbow that has formed. Or even to giggle and walk home in the rain, just because we can (or maybe because Mummy forgot the umbrella!) and because it feels different and fun and exciting to feel the raindrops, hear the rumble of the thunder, watch the lighting and make a dash for home!
When I am able to do that – I feel a huge sense of love and gratitude and joy for the simple things. A sense of happiness and energy and somehow power to live life to the full. It reminds me what is really important to me and how good it feels to embrace being in the ‘now’ more often, regularly.
Of course, the chores still need doing and the bills still need paying and there is all the stress that goes with that. But actually, by following my children’s (and my husband's) lead and getting into that space of ‘now’, I am able to let go of some of that stress.
A scenario might be, that I am in the park with my kids and rather than losing myself in thought about what I still need to get done, I try and remind myself: Right now, I can’t pay the bills (or do the washing, or sort out the kids’ wardrobes or do the shopping, or whatever it might be) – I am here in the park. So, I can either stand here making a mental list and stress about all the things that need doing, or I can consciously put them to one side and get in the now. Sometimes, I will get my phone, or a piece of paper out and list down as many things that I can that need doing, to help me let go and get in the now. And then I get on that swing with my children, chase them around the playground, play football with them and just enjoy the present moment with them.
It doesn’t always work of course, but when it does, and I allow myself to let go, it always, without fail, makes me feel awesome and alive!
There is a great book called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, where this whole process and the concept behind it is explained in lots of detail (or you can also read a summary version with Shortform). The book describes how we can only truly find peace and fulfillment through living in the now, as this helps us connect with our true selves and experience life fully, without our thoughts distracting us, or clouding our view of the world.
It really is quite a wonderful way to live. And I am hugely grateful to my 3 children for reminding me of this every day. And to my husband for initially introducing me to this way of living.