The Present

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The Present

Post by Karla » Mon Oct 14, 2019 2:23 pm

The Present (from my blog

‎October‎ ‎11‎, ‎2019

My kids and I love all of the Kung Fu Panda movies. It is hard not to root for the underdog amidst such talent. We want to see the squishy panda who has no business in the realm of anything other than noodles, much less Kung Fu, succeed. We all know that he isn't as "good" or as "talented" and does not have the history of the training and discipline of the others on his team.

At one point during the first movie, Master Shifu is discussing past, present, and future. In a line that resonated with me then, and still does to this day, he says "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift! That is why it is called the present." I have also heard it said more crudely something to the effect of if you are too busy with one foot in the past and one foot in the future, you are pissing on the present.

Hmmm. The present. The word itself has multiple meanings, first depending on if it is utilized as a verb, noun, or adjective. The definition that I believe packs the most punch for me personally is " not past or future : existing or happening now ". Yep. Obviously, the present is now.

So if it's that obvious, why is it so hard for me to live in it? To truly be "in the moment", living in the present, completely and totally engrossed in what surrounds me at this very moment is very challenging. I have difficulty staying in the moment with just about everything I do. I can find my mind wandering while working, trying to enjoy a show, or more frustratingly, if I am with others. When my mind is constantly wandering off to the should have and could have recesses of my brain, instead of living in the moment and experiencing gratitude for all that I have in front of me I am fretting about the past (for which I can not change) or anxious about the future (which is not actually happening right now).

Then, what happens, is that the present moment in short order becomes the past and then I have something new to feel guilty about. That I wasn't truly present and grateful for whatever it was I was just doing. I firmly believe that my inability to enjoy at least some of the present was a big reason why I drank. I was constantly trying to settle my mind which was ill at ease. It was impossible for me to try to relax and enjoy my family or friends or a book or show, without jumping back to the past or future in my mind. Doing that ruined many a precious moment for me. And, of course, adding alcohol to the mix ultimately did not help.

I think it did help for many years. It helped me slow down my mind enough to enjoy some things. But, I would pay for it later when the booze wore off and I was left with worsening hamster wheel thoughts and fears, now with a side of guilt because of the drinking. Then, slowly over time, the drinking actually worsened my ability to be present. There is a big difference between a drink or two versus complete intoxication. Normal social drinking can and does help some people to enjoy the moment. Drinking at the alcoholic level where I ended up just removed me from the present even further. Not only was I not enjoying anything, but I wasn't participating, functioning, or even necessarily aware of what was going on around me and that was no way to live.

I am almost six years' sober. I have worked very hard to gain control of my thoughts and in the process learned to actually let go of them. It's a strange thing - meditation and prayer and devotional readings can help me to gain control of my thoughts by letting go. What?

Yep, I am someone who needs to focus on clearing my mind and heart and soul, for only a couple of minutes. I can't do the 30 minutes of total cleansing meditation some people can do. It is too painful for me. I start checking the clock at 2 minutes, thinking the 30 should be close to done. It can be tortuous. But, if for just a minute or two, I focus only on shoving out all thoughts except for those related to breathing, sounds around me, how the air feels against my skin, if there is a breeze, if there is a scent of something in the air - then, I can actually clear my mind and reset things to the present, at least for a while.

If I find myself wandering away from the present in my mind (grocery shopping in my head while talking with a patient or thinking about what how I screwed up something in my past while spending time with my kids), I do the 2 minute refocus. It isn't easy, and it isn't curative. Some days I need to do it fifty times a day, sometimes not at all. But, it's just like me resetting my internal clock to "the time is now".

And it's really important for me.

Maybe it is for you, too.

Please feel free to comment.


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