How to Stop Living in the Past, and Live from Today?
I recently came across this quote by Eckhart Tolle from my pinterest and I think that is what gave me the idea to share my intake on the topic. The quote goes something like this” “The past has no power over the present moment.”
So why is it that we often find ourselves rummaging over the same past events like listening to the same song over and over again, until we are tired of it, yet we cannot let it go, for it was our favourite at some point in time?
There was one beautiful thing that was told by someone very close to me, when I shared how I was having difficulty in letting a particular past event leave me.
She told me, the reason why I was constantly haunted by the same past thought, is because I was carrying it upon my shoulders. Aiding it, supporting it all the time, nurturing it, not cutting it away from me.
That simple, unharmful thought had become so permanent inside me, that anything new, it rejected the idea of that.
I was finding it difficult to accept anything new that was told to me, for I kept asking, revisiting this thought. And once she pointed out that I realised how maladaptive that thought actually was.
That’s what your past does to you.
It hinders your capability to fully live in the present, rather like a bog you shall be engulfed into the past, those memories, the feeling, emotions, etc.
‘So how do you stop that and start living in the present?
I am present here in the moment:
Well this was told to me by the same friend, she said every time I felt I was going to get carried away into revisiting my past and then feeling all kinds of heart aches, weird feelings inside my stomach etc.
I should pause,
Then mentally list aloud the above things:
- 2 things I can see / observe in my immediate environment
- 1 thing can hear in the background
- 1 thing I can feel, i.e, my jacket resting upon my arms.
- 1 thing I can taste.
- 1 thing that I can smell.
This exercise is used by many psychologists as a way of getting their client’s focus back to present.
Thus, this way, you will be more in touch with what is happening around you and not get carried away by rumination.
The present is all you have, use it wisely :
By the time you finish reading the headline, and reach towards this particular line, that headline has already become a spur moment of the past.
Start enjoying the gift of this present moment.
Make the most out of it, even though it’s as small as smiling at yourself every time you look past a mirror, feeling the warmth of the sun even though it’s for brief seconds.
After all happiness lies in those fleeting moments of the present.
Stop wandering, start living.
A study conducted by Harvard University, showcased how there was an indirect relationship between your mind wandering and your happiness.
Thus the more your mind wanders to your past or other unimportant things, the more you are likely to feel unhappy and vice versa.
Every time you feel your curious Alice of a mind has gone on a journey to her wonderland, call out yourself, by doing something else, either taking a deep breath.
Or do a stretch.
While doing that make sure you are giving full attention to that stretch, or even getting up to take coffee or water or a loo break.
A simple activity such as washing your hand with soap can help your mind stop wandering.
Just pay attention to the way the foam feels in between your fingers, those bubbles, feel how relaxing that task is, when you wash your hands with fresh water.
Focus upon the sensations, voices, smell, present in the environment.
We are so dependent upon our autopilot mode that we are either planning for the future or learning to be better than our past. But what about the present moments?
They have become like dandelions, one moment they are here, the next, we try to catch them, alas they are a distant memory of the past.
Thus, as you pause, and allow yourself to observe or listen to the melody or tune of the environment, you become more happy and more in tune with your own mind.
Here’s a little activity you can try :
Try smelling a flower, looking at its beautiful natural colors, soft petals, the next time you are out for a walk by the garden.
Engage your mind’s attention:
To learn how to live in the exact moment seems like a simple task, but it requires a very efficient commitment towards being mindful. The easiest way to get mindful is through breathing in and breathing out. You can either try pranayam, or love kindness meditation, this way, you will allow yourself to be present.
Allow yourself to be in the moment, not out there witnessing galloping trails of thoughts.
Lastly, as my favourite character from my favourite movie once quoted, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift.
That’s why they call it a present” Go ahead, enjoy your present moment to its fullest, for you will never get it twice!