Staying present is more than the mantra “be here now.” This fabulous phrase, popularized by Ram Dass, is everywhere in popular culture … but that doesn’t mean people are using it correctly. True, we can’t claim to have a corner on any phrase, life philosophy, or spiritual approach. But we can tell you that in our experience, being present and being positive are not the same thing.
First, though, a disclaimer: We would never want to convey the idea that people should avoid or look down upon negative emotions. All feelings are a part of life’s journey. They provide critical guideposts to help us navigate our inner and outer environment.
However, just like those base-jumpers in the flying suits… (Google them!) we go where we look. Focus on the negative, and the present can become a very unpleasant place indeed.
Consider the following situations:
The list goes on and on, of course. In situations such as these, many people have an immediate fight or flight reaction. Too often, they flee to the past, when things were cozier or better, and the adverse event wasn’t happening. Or they take refuge in the future, where perhaps life is rosier. Maybe they even fantasize about seeking revenge. Hey, we’re all human. But you see the problem: You’re not here now.
If you do stay in the present, your thoughts might turn toward the dismal and self-flagellating. You may utter phrases such as “I wasn’t worth loving anyway,” “I hate my boss and I’ll never enjoy work” or “I knew I should have been a better parent. It probably all goes back to that time I failed to…”
Introspection is, without doubt, one of the handiest tools in your interpersonal (and intra-personal) kit. However, it can be damaging if you don’t take the right approach, which is to look for the good in each situation.
You can start by re-framing. Even with a broken heart, it’s possible to see that if someone dumps you, then they weren’t right for you. If your boss yells at you, they’re making themselves look bad. No one is responsible for your child’s actions but your child, no matter how much you might suffer from their decisions. And your body is what it is for now. If you want to alter it, you must face it with positivity, hope and a willingness to change your actions as well as your mindset.
Your elders were right: Each situation is a learning experience. You can choose to stay with that experience long enough to glean the good from it. Or, you can repeat the lesson another time.
When that feels like too much for you, and staying present becomes too heavy a burden, your spiritual community can help. If you want to learn to stay present, even in the midst of hurt and heartache, our community at The Journey Training is here for you. It’s time to become who you’re meant to be.