We are too often focused on what’s next, or what just happened. The past is past. The future is not here yet. The present is what is real and present. Yet we spend all our time looking back or looking forward.
The practice of being present is exactly that, a practice. It is a way of being that must be cultivated and grown. It doesn’t just happen by itself. We are conditioned to look forward and back. We set goals, work for goals, make plans for our futures. Yet in order to achieve those goals we need to be in the present moment. If we aren’t present all those goals will just sit there doing nothing.
By the same token, we look back to learn from our experiences. We take pride in past accomplishments, often resting on our laurels. We need those past experiences to build a trove of wisdom. But we can’t live there or nothing will ever get done. We will spend all our time remembering what was and no time doing what needs to be done.
It is in the present moment where living happens. It is in every moment, every inch where we must live and work and play. If we miss the present by looking forward or back it is gone forever, the game is lost.
Often we talk about an athlete being in the “zone”. In that zone is a complete mastery of the present moment. There is only the task directly in front of the athlete. No worry about the last shot or the next play, the only thing that exists is what is happening at that very moment.
Mindfulness is a practice we cultivate by being mindful. In the simplest of things…eating, walking, and breathing. When was the last time you really focused on your breath…the one you are taking right now? Or the food you are eating? Your mindfulness muscle may be weak presently but you can make it better, stronger, more resilient. When that happens tasks that are more complex and difficult will become easier. And by easier I mean more likely to be completely centered and grounded at the task at hand.