As I’m sitting here today letting my mind wander – which really means I’m allowing myself to leave the endless ‘to-do’ lists a day can fill up with and the constant chatter that goes with them – the thought enters my head that being here right now is the only thing I can be certain I’m actually experiencing right now.
And when I let myself just experience being here that moment is timeless. It’s not until I start thinking about the moment that I add the idea that time is moving, and therefore my moment has a past and a future.
So I’m wondering now if it is my thinking that actually constructs this sense of time passing?
And I’m guessing that to symbolize this paradoxical experience of being here, both in time and timeless, we have created the idea of ‘present’ – as distinct from the actual experience of ‘Now’. And we all think the ‘present’ is not an idea but quite real and needs no further explanation.
But I think, and feel, it does…because when we pay attention to this idea we call the ‘present’we notice that it is different from how we feel the ‘Now’.
When you look closely at the ’present’ it appears to be made up of three active dynamics:
First, the past, in that we’re always conscious of ‘before’ in the act of being ‘present’;
Second, the ‘Now’– and which is usually submerged under the urgencies of our thoughts;
Third, the future, in that we’re always acting- consciously or unconsciously- to achieve a purpose or realize an expectation.
This implies that though things in our memory and hopes for our future appear to be separate from being here in our ‘present’ they are actually an intrinsic part of our experience of being here in any moment.
And we all know that the purpose of memory is to make versions of the past. What we don’t usually seriously examine is that these versions are likely not the same as the actual previous event, and are influenced by other factors in our present.
One of the secrets to handling anxiety and stress in one’s life is being able to decipher what is influencing our making of these versions in our present, and why?
And I’m asking you to sit still here with me and think about all this.
Especially if you feel helpless in the face of the logic that tells you that in previous actions you were a failure, really hurt someone or was hurt, or whatever negative event in your past you think you can do absolutely nothing about it – because you are locking yourself into a cycle of despair, or anger, or constant upset.
Stop doing it. The past is in the present.
You are making a version of that past. What ideas, inner beliefs, feelings, or whatever inside you is influencing that version?
First, figure that out.
Second, see the past event as honestly and clearly as you can, especially from the perspective you only know your part in it and not the whole situation.
I say this not because we make up lies about ourselves in past events, but because when faced with the actuality that we can’t know the other factors besides our own actions and intentions in any event, our imaginations often supply those in the action of remembering.
Third be critical and pro-active – what do you want to learn from the event? What do you want to do about the event? Walk away? Make amends? Look more closely into the situation? Look more closely into your inner ways of interpreting experience?
Sure you can’t change the past as the popular truth goes. But you can construct your present, especially your ideas and beliefs about yourself and other people to be as functional and life enhancing as possible.
Anything else is just self-inflicted ‘drama’ and suffering.
In closing I want to leave you with these ideas to think about:
Our idea of the ‘present’ as well as our experience of ‘Now’, are constructions we have made to be able to live with a head as well as a heart in this amazing, bewildering, often hard to understand life. As such, the meanings we put to ideas like ‘success’ and ‘failure’ are also constructions.
The past is a fiction in our present. We can create supportive, healing fictions, or we can create self-destructive ones.
Our well-being depends on deciphering those fictions for yourself, and what those meanings are.
The only thing that is real is our experience of being here.
I say all this not because we make up lies about ourselves in past events, but because we can not actually know the totality of any event we are involved in i.e. the other factors besides our own actions and intentions – so we often supply those in the action of remembering.