Reality Check: The Present Day

After an absence, we may pick up the strands of connection by asking, “How are you doing?” When I reconnected with Becca, who is well-versed in Dr. Glasser’s Choice Theory, I was pretty sure of an interesting answer. I was not disappointed.
Becca said, “Life is better since I learned to live in the present.”
“How do you manage that?” I asked. “Practice,” said she.
Uggh. Practice, indeed. It seems that so much of what we want requires practice.
Why is “living in the present” difficult? Where else can we live? We can only act in the present moment.
However, our thinking isn’t necessarily about the present. Some of us spend time in the future, whether in worry or anticipation. Some spend time in the past. We may even spend time on experiences that have never happened—those “If only’s…”
Living in the present doesn’t mean that we forget the past or avoid preparing for the future. But the practice of living in the present can help us stay focused and appreciate the life we actually have—not the one we think we should have or one that someone else has.
If you are spending a lot of time ruminating on the past or fretting about the future, you might want to consider how well that’s working for you. If it’s not working well, what might you do? Practice implies doing, but doing what, exactly? Here are a few thoughts.
First, make a practice of noticing the timeframe of your thoughts. Is what you’re thinking relevant to today? Will it affect any choices you make today? If not, bring your thoughts back to today, the present moment.
Second, pay attention to whatever it is that you are doing. Start right now! Even if your current task doesn’t require your full attention, direct your thoughts to it. Our minds go a mile a minute (more or less). We can convince ourselves that it is efficient to daydream, worry, or otherwise “multi-task” while our hands are doing something else. However, this moment is one of a kind; we may as well live it.
Finally, a suggestion from an article titled “Notice You’re Alright Right Now,” by Rick Hanson, PhD. could be helpful. Hanson discusses anxiety and refers to “an ongoing internal trickle of unease.” He suggests acknowledging that even if all is not perfect, at this moment, it’s likely that you are pretty much alright. You’re breathing, your mind is working. Several times in your day, practice noticing that basically, you are alright right now.
The answer to the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” is “Practice.” Practice is the answer to many questions of accomplishment. It requires repetition, persistence, continued action in a consistent direction. While we may never achieve perfection, practice inevitably moves us further along the path.
Handle the tasks of the day. Don’t let despairs of past days nor the worries of next days overshadow the joy of today; the gratitude for the moment that we are living right now.
I want to acknowledge and thank Becca for the conversation, the inspiration, and her permission to use this anecdote as the foundation for this column.
Do you live in the present? Do you need to work at it? Or does it come easily?

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