I wouldn’t call myself an anxious person. I manage the stress of life- school, projects, college prospects, fitness, relationships, etc.- without much outward strife and struggle. In other words, I don’t seem “stressed out” all the time; no hair has been ripped from my head over the anxieties of life.
At the same time, I find that as I age and become engaged in more activities that have more serious aims and scopes, a low-level stress has begun to pervade my waking hours. At every moment, I seem to be thinking about what happened yesterday, what I need to be doing in five minutes from now, and how my current actions will impact my future in months and years from now. This moment is so often a means to an end for a future self. If I only do X now, I will achieve Y later, and it is the Y that I value, regardless of the stress and burden of X.
Additionally, this year has not been an easy one for me. I’ve had significant social ups and downs, which have damaged my self-confidence to a small degree. I’ve also become more attuned to my own perfectionism and the amount of pressure I put on myself has led me into some negative behaviors, like obsessive exercise and intense workaholism. I still love life, but the present moment has become somewhat less precious- I seem to focus only on a bright future, not on the brightness of this moment.
In times like these, I must remind myself: there is only now. I am now. You are now. We are all now.
At first the concept is simple: of course I am the person I am now; I exist, after all, in this moment, and I’ve never disputed that fact. But think about it more deeply and the truth behind this realization is transformative. I am not the person I was a moment ago. I am not the person I will be in a moment from now. I can never live in the past or future, only in the exact moment that I am in. The past and future are truly illusions. They do not exist. The only thing that ever exists is here and now.
I don’t have many enlightening words to say on this subject (if you’d like to have your mind blown, read anything by Eckhart Tolle), but I want to leave you all with a friendly reminder to embrace the present. I know, “live in the moment” is everywhere and certainly not original, but I hope you can approach this statement in a slightly different way today. Remember that the future you are working towards is just another now that hasn’t happened yet. Remember that each “now” is as valuable as each other “now,” and that a life lived for the future exclusively is a life unloved. If we always live for the future, and the future is just an eventual present, when will we ever get a chance to enjoy it? Never, until we can enjoy the now that the future brings us.
This is not, of course, to say that preparation for the future is pointless or futile. It is only to say that we all deserve to participate in activities, relationships, and practices for the purpose of reveling in the now. I just started doing yoga and an associated boot camp program, and the presentness of exercise has never felt so rewarding or invigorating. Come summer, I will begin to cook again, fully focused on the work in front of me. I have also been invited by the athletic trainer at my school, who is my dearest friend, to ride one of her horses on the trail with her this summer. I can only imagine what kind of mental and spiritual developments will occur out there in the wilderness on horseback, and I can’t wait to share thoughts and potential photos.
What do you do to stay in the present? How do you remember that you are now? Do you have a little saying or practice for remembering that only this moment is reality?
You are now. Whoever you were a moment ago, let them go. Whoever you will be in a moment from now, let them come, but do not worry too much about who they will be. Be the best you in this moment, and the best you will always follow. And, for goodness sakes, let yourself have a moment of respite from the stress of life. It is in respite that you will truly, presently live, and you deserve that pleasure at every moment, in every single now.