Staying in the present moment is hard.
It is hard because it’s complex and contradictory. You will suffer, but you will also enjoy life, and all in the present moment, always.
It’s easy to be in the present moment when we are enjoying ourselves, hell, you don’t even notice you are present when you are having fun, that is why time simply flies.
When we are experiencing discomfort, however, it’s easier to let our minds shelter themselves in the comfort of “when this happens or passes, then I’ll be good/happy/safe”. In illusion, it seems to be a better place to dwell, the imaginary mind.
Dwelling in imagination, more often than not, brings more pain and more discomfort.
Living in the present moment all the time gives you the ability to work with reality as it is without wishful thinking, it will permit you also to be pragmatic and intelligent in your decisions as you will not be self-deceived by what you “wish were true” and instead with what is true in real life.
Living in the present moment may not be fun all the time but why do you want comfort all the time? Isn’t it better to “suck the marrow of life”? To live fully and with courage, to live without regret, knowing that you stood there, in rain or sun, in fortune or misfortune?
Merely “focusing in the present moment” is hard as I already said. The Buddhist philosophy has a lot to say in this manner and Stoic philosophy can be aided with some of its practices.
Buddhist advice for staying in the present moment
“Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, “Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer.
Then remind yourself that past and future have no power over you. Only the present—and even that can be minimized. Just mark off its limits. And if your mind tries to claim that it can’t hold out against that…well, then, heap shame upon it.” Marcus Aurelius
The stoic advice for living in the present moment is: “just focus on the present moment”, “focus on the task at hand”. This is not enough in my opinion.
The mind is always thinking about something, always, that is its job.
It’s hard to focus on the present moment if you have no training at all to do so, it may be the best practice, but how can you become good at being in the present moment, no matter what?
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. Buddha
Become aware of your breath.
When you become aware of your breath, you automatically shift your attention at something that anchors you to the present moment. We are breathing all the time, every second of our existence we breathe and this is why it is so helpful to remind us of being right here, right now.
Meditation is just practicing focus. But you need something to focus on and the breath, being there all the time, is the perfect anchor for the present moment.
Each time you realize that you are not putting attention on your breath anymore, you just shift your attention back to it.
This way, you can practice staying at the present moment all the time. Training your mind to become better at “dealing with the task at hand” as Marcus proposed.
Action and courage to live.
Living in the present moment is not for the weak and the faint-hearted. It requires courage. It requires the courage to accept and deal with everything that is existing at the moment. Being bored or being exited, it doesn’t matter, we should always be with existence as a whole.
Subscribe and receive for free the Askesis ebook to further develop your practice of stoicism.
Visit our Patreon page for more stoic, Patreon only content. Thanks.
Support Stoic Answers
Stoic answers is committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview. Our mission is to create a sanctuary online for serious stoic contemporary thinking. No ads, no paywall, no clickbait – just thought-provoking ideas from the great ancient Stoics and contemporary knowledge, free to all. But we can’t do it without you.