The Power Of Living In The Now
Living in the now may sound like a New Age concept for hippies, but it can be one of the most powerful tools for living your best life once you start to practice it. We are human beings, not human ‘doings’, and yet most of us, especially in the West, are constantly chasing after what we believe to be ‘success’.
Yet success is not a fixed concept. It is in the eye of the beholder. In the West, being a veterinarian, doctor or lawyer might be considered a sign of success, yet we know that there are many unhappy doctors. In fact, they have one of the highest suicide rates of any profession. (Veterinarians are actually #1 on the list of professionals most likely to commit suicide.)
The drive to constantly do something makes us distracted and keeps us so focused on the daily grind that we have little time for relaxation, de-stressing, or self-development. Even worse, it makes us feel stuck, as if we can’t change because we have no time, that the whole world we have created for ourselves will fall apart and more.ie
Let’s look at one of the main reasons we fail to live fully in the present and sacrifice our personal power, the mistake of living in the past.
How to Let Go of the Past
Many of us think we are living in the present, day after day, but the truth is that we are often more focused on the past and future than on the present. We are plugged into a particular role in our family from the time we are born, such as the ‘good son’ or ‘little lady’ and our interests, even our clothing, are dictated by societal norms about what color boys and girls should wear and how they ‘should’ behave. Boys get blue, girls get pink.
Yet it is all a question of perception. For example, you may think that black and white are straightforward, but the truth is that they carry different symbolic meanings depending on one’s culture. White used to be the color of mourning in Europe in the Middle Ages, so the idea of a gorgeous white wedding dress would have horrified them. Similarly, a ‘sexy’ little black dress would horrify Buddhists, especially those in Japan, because black is considered to be an ugly color.
As we are thrust into societal roles and live them day after day in our parents’ house, it can be hard to break away. It’s easy to just do what you’ve already done, go along with what they want for the sake of survival and deny parts of your inner self. You might long to be a writer, and be very talented at it, but nothing will satisfy your parents except you becoming a doctor.
Old habits die hard, even when you long to make positive changes in your life. Sticking to your worst habits you know you should change is a lot easier than breaking them, such as quitting smoking or stopping overeating.
We also stay stuck in order to avoid conflict. No one wants to be alone in life, so we put up with certain situations in order to maintain the relationship. Why? Because change is scary. For anyone who has ever wondered how any battered wife would remain with the spouse who has been harming her, the truth is that the future is more frightening for her than her current situation, even though it is so terrible.
The past soon becomes a pattern. And If something traumatic happens to us, it can often cause us to ‘freeze’ in that moment and have trouble moving on, or changing. A death in the family might be one example. A bad break-up with a spouse might be another, causing us to have trouble ever trusting or loving anyone ever again.
Just a simple argument can cause people to get stuck in the past. They might hold a grudge and not speak to each other for years, to the point where they can’t even recall what triggered the disagreement in the first place.
Or they might say, “I’m a depressed person because X happened to me when I was 12.” That might be a good explanation when you’re 12, but when you’re 50, it sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it?
Living in the present allows you to create a new identity by releasing the pain and the self-limiting thoughts from the past, and taking things one day at a time.
Another reason we get stuck in our lives is because we get too wrapped up in the future and don’t pay enough attention to the present. Let’s look at this topic in the next chapter.
How to Avoid Getting Wrapped Up in the Future