I am writing this in response to ideas I have encountered that “being in the present” would make our burdens lighter. I’m wary of easy answers to life’s trickiest challenges: painting reality in a rose-coloured tinge usually just serves to sweep things under the carpet. Unfortunately it seems that it is an easy way to make money because people would rather buy into easy answers than face up to challenges. I am not in favour of creating unnecessary problems either. My approach is to confront the darkness as in this way it dissolves, making space for a new experience. Positive thinking should not require effort or favour denial – a simple change in attitude can do the job to make a person feel lighter. This brings me to the often prescribed cure for troubles: being “in” the present moment. More often than not such cures make me feel worse: in addition to what I’m dealing with, I feel frustrated for being unable to feel better when supposedly it is easy.
There is a reason why people drift out of being present to the moment in the first place. There is the hope that things will be better later: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Sometimes hope is all that gets a person through a difficult time. When this is the case, things do get better and are in fact often much better than before. The process by which we lose touch with where we are is tangled up with the principle by which society is run: that there is always something to achieve. It is not easy to reverse the conditioning that our existence has to be earned.
The present is the only chance we have to make significant changes that could affect the future. It is also where we have to confront all that we would rather not deal with. It is when we stop to take stock that the monster we have been hiding in the closet begs to see the light of day. Acknowledging what we feel is far more challenging than continuing an existence that runs to a promised future laid out by everyone else. Being present entails taking responsibility for the direction we are heading in. This is really frightening when one doesn’t know which steps would be the right course of action.
Being in the present is not something that has to be obtained. Rather, the most beneficial use of the present entails reversing the notion that there is something to achieve. Rather than searching for the gift in the present or worrying about doing it right, I propose that realising that we are in the present anyway is the key to bringing about change. This does not mean that everything will be rosy or that we are escaping our troubles; rather, it’s the opposite.
The present is the opportunity we have to connect the points of the past and future, healing what needs to be healed and aligning our steps with what we find meaningful. It does not mean that the sailing will always be smooth, but it does give us the opportunity to steer our own ship. In this way, we do not need to achieve ourselves. The dream has already been created – it is the reason why it showed up in our hearts in the first place. The present asks us to have the courage to see it through, bringing our most vulnerable parts to light.