Monday, December 21, 2009

What "Living in the Moment" Isn't

I posted a few days ago on living in the present--not regretting or glorifying what happened in the past, nor fixating on how things will be different in the future--so as to seek happiness in the ever-present NOW

To clarify this a bit, I'd like to take a leaf from the book of Taoism to describe my approach to this form of living. I am by no means an expert, but Taoism, from my reading and experience, suggests a life in which one remains "receptively passive" to the movement or flow of life, and when one acts, it is in accordance with the flow of one's life, and is thus effortless. When one fights against the flow, one finds difficulty, suffering, unhappiness, etc. 

Let me put it in terms of relationships. To live in the ever-present now, one would exist in a way that is most calm and harmonious to one's nature and the nature of others. That does not mean never disagreeing. If, for instance, one's partner is a creep, it may seem more harmonious to shut up about it and take it--whether it be abuse, derision, abandonment, etc. However, it is damaging to oneself, and doesn't go with one's personal needs. Resentment and anger will build until you can't take it anymore, and then the flow of need will cause you to act out eventually.

Living in the moment, in this case, means not resisting the urge to speak up. Resisting the urge is hard, and it hurts the current moment. Instead, one should speak up and say, directly, "When you say this/do this/etc. I feel hurt and ashamed." At the same time, it does not mean bringing up all sorts of past hurts--those are past, and the reason one might be bringing them up is because one has held onto them instead of expressing them when they occur. It's the same with positive elements. When one is happy, one should express so, and share the joy of one's life with others. If another's actions hurt one's flow, by all means one should act to change that flow, even it means leaving. The release I've heard described from this kind of action (leaving a creep) is caused because a major obstruction has been removed.

In terms of money, living in the moment does not mean racking up credit card balances so that one can go on a vacation "now," without consideration for the future debt or insolvency. In fact, I would contend that purchases on credit are actually living in the future, and not the present, for one's subconscious reasoning is that a larger TV, a new dining room set, or a McMansion will make one happier, and it suggests that one is dissatisfied with one's life as it is. Living within one's means is one way of existing within the flow of one's life. Seeking to purchase items one cannot yet afford goes against one's flow. Buying a house and having payments one cannot afford is a gaping example of this, and it does not increase one's happiness (as many thousands of homeowners will attest to). 

Even in terms of food and exercise, living in the moment means paying attention to right now--not one's future goals, but one's eating right at this moment. If I truly live in the now, I eat only when I'm hungry--and I enjoy every tasty morsel of food while I eat it, not working on the computer or watching television while I do it, but savoring everything. It means enjoying my activity--whether walking with a friend or doing zumba or bellydancing--and it means living in that moment happily, without constantly looking in the mirror or stepping on the scale to see whether it's doing any good. If I am only living in the future ("I want to lose 10 pounds") or living in the past ("I don't ever want to be that fat again") I will not be happy now. 

And now is what counts. Past is past, future is future. We can't live in either one. I don't write because I want to get published some day. I write because I love it, and when I do it, I am happy. 

Thoughts? Bones of contention? 


  1. I don't know. Some of your explanations seemed self-serving rather than actual.

    Perhaps we need to be in harmony not only with the now but also the future and the past.

  2. Perhaps time is not the key, but harmony.

    Not sure how the explanations serve myself. Would love clarification.

  3. My whole life is driven by goals and looking ahead.

    I hate to say it but I don't think I could live in the "now" state of mind.

    The more I think about it, the more I realize I’m an anal type of personality, hidden by a good attitude.

    I find it hard to look at myself in this manner, yet your topic forces me to do just that.

    Hopefully I can grow from it and learn to enjoy the “now” more often. But I feel looking ahead has it merits...

    I need to be more balanced in my mind set, for a happier and more fulfilled life. The trick is to put it into practice…

    Thx for your time.

  4. Perhaps that is the flaw of Taoism, that passivity can turn into stagnation and laissez-faire...

    And I cannot say I live in the moment even most of the time. The goal is to live more in the moment than we do now, to strive to do it more... but perhaps the goal stems from our own tendency to live far from that.

    Maybe, like socialism, it's an idea that, if truly perfected, would be far from perfect. I can certainly concede that. I haven't come close to that perfection, though, so I can't say yet that I have knowledge of the life lived totally in the present.

  5. My point is not that living in the moment is bad, but that many of the things you described did not seem like living in the moment but preparing for the future. There's nothing wrong with either.

    Too much of anything destroys the balance. Ignoring history is a fine way to repeat it (as many people who have a long line of destructive relationships can tell you), but dwelling on what was instead of what is and what will be isn't healthy. Living only for the now is a good way to enjoy life, but it can short change the future. Fretting over the future can divorce you from what's good about one's life now.

    Too much of anything skews your life. As does too little. There's is nothing, NOTHING, wrong with noting where you fail to enjoy the now (or the past or the future - wherever you're falling short). My point is just that, in my opinion, no answer fits everyone. You may need to live more now (as do I), someone else may need to peer more in the future or spend less time in the past. No formula fitting everyone.

    It's just my opinion and isn't a criticism, just noting that, in my experience, there is rarely one formula that fits all.

    I have appreciated what you said, and, if that didn't come through, I'm sorry.

    Two more things. You HAVE to see Avatar (preferably in IMAX 3D). And I'm sending you my novel tonight or tomorrow.

  6. Now stretch each moment into an entire lifetime, allowing every kindness and evil to be reset with each beginning, having no expectations other than the willingness to live this life of the moment to its fullest capacity.

  7. I'm with you, Walking Man. All the way. Perhaps that's where all these entries are coming from. You are helping me recognize my own need to contemplate today. My kids help me do this. My painting does, too. My writing is ever-present, and I cannot write effectively if I cannot live in the moment of that act of creating and putting together ideas.

    I am SOOO glad you are sending me your novel, Stephanie! I'll finish polishing up the last few pages of my own, and I'll e-mail it out. I have to print it for Mom (R's Mom) so that she can read it. Hopefully, with a few good (tough) readers, I'll be able to get it ready to send off.

    And it isn't that I don't think of the future, or shouldn't, but at every given moment, it's the present that I want to live in. I don't want to spend my life waiting for something, but living in the glow of my Christmas tree right now, sitting here with my son in my lap. That is the present reality, and it's great right now. The future can wait.