This post was written by Leo Babauta, originally for Zen Habits. Republished here with permission.
Have you ever thought of the present moment as a loved one? I’ve been working with this thought lately, and I find it helpful when I’m feeling rushed, distracted, worried, upset, frustrated, anxious, sad, irritated. Here’s what I know about our relationship with the present moment.
Our Relationship with the Present Moment
Let’s think for a moment about our relationship with this loved one we might call the Present Moment …
- We barely pay attention to it, thinking instead of what we have to do later, things we’re worried about, etc.
- If it’s boring or uncomfortable, we habitually turn away from it and go to distractions, rejecting the Present Moment.
- We judge it as good or bad, pleasant or uncomfortable, and dislike it if it isn’t behaving the way we want.
- We don’t accept it as it is, but want more, are worried we’re missing out, think we should be doing something else.
- When we’re upset or frustrated, it’s because we have a story running in our heads, rather than paying attention to the Present Moment in front of us.
Imagine a loved one who you don’t pay attention to, who you reject and judge as unworthy, who you don’t accept as they are, who you ignore even when they’re sitting right in front of you. That would probably not be a great relationship.
Of course, the Present Moment isn’t a person with feelings, so we shouldn’t worry about it so much, right? Maybe, but what I’ve been finding is that developing a good relationship with the Present Moment leads to less stress, more peace and contentment, and a better relationship with everyone else in my life.
What can we do to develop this better relationship with the Present Moment? Treat it with respect, and give it the attention it deserves. After all, just like with our relationship with anyone else — we have limited time to spend with it, and once that time is up, we can’t get any more.
- Try to stay with the Present Moment longer … whether it’s the physical sensations all around you, how your body feels, how your breath feels, or the thoughts or emotions floating around in your mind … try to pay attention without wandering.
- Come back when you do wander.
- Be interested and curious about the Present Moment, open to whatever arises, without needing it to be a certain way.
- Be less judgmental and more accepting — experiences aren’t necessarily “good” or “bad” but just worthy of your attention and interest.
- When you find yourself wanting to go to distraction, or caught up in a story about something, try coming back to the Present Moment, and just pay attention to the changing moment.
- When things are uncomfortable, stay. Instead of running, be there for the uncomfortable Present Moment, with love and gentleness.
- Notice when you’re constantly wandering, and come back, come back, and stay.
You might notice an instant transformation of your relationship with the Present Moment, where you are more open, curious, accepting, and attentive. This can be transformative, in all areas of our lives.
Or it might be more of a gradual shift, where your trust in the Present Moment grows over time, and you slowly open up to it with acceptance and fearlessness.
Either way, what you’ll find is that you’re also developing a better relationship with yourself. And everything around you, all the time.