If we examine our thoughts, we shall find them always occupied with the past and the future. – Blaise Pascal
What does that mean?
I don’t know about you, but this quote is very true for me. I am either busy learning from past mistakes, or applying those lessons to future plans. Only rarely am I truly in the present, neither reliving the past nor contemplating the future.
This quote is also interesting, as it appears to be a simple observation, without explicit guidance. However, what little Zen I have in me is jumping up and down, waving it’s tiny little arms, shouting “I know the answer!”
The implied guidance is to keep our thoughts somewhere between the past and the future, at least from time to time. The point of the quote, to me, is to remind us that the present exists. It is the only time that is neither past nor future, and it’s where our bodies spend all of their time, even if our minds wander off from time to time.
Why is being present (and in the present) important?
A Zen Master might be able to lecture for hours on the importance and necessity of being present (or focused on the ‘here and now’), I’m going to try to keep it as practical as I can. No koans (Western or Eastern), no meditation, and nobody wandering around with a stick.
While some people are able to keep multiple things going in their head at once, even they can usually only focus on one thing at a time. To me, being present (or living in the present) has to do with what you are focusing on in that very moment.
If you are planning, you are not present, but in the future. If you are remembering, you are not present, but in the past. What we are trying to do with the present is experience it, to focus on it, to enjoy it, to interact with all your senses and your being with what is happening around you, as well as within you.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Some things, like live sporting events, do a pretty good job of keeping you in the present (except, of course, when they are running an instant replay). Other things, like reflecting or planning, are specifically designed to take you away from the present. That doesn’t mean they are bad, just that we should be aware of how often we step away from the present.
Other things should keep you in the present, such as risky behaviors, like driving or riding a bicycle. Staying focused on what is presently happening around you is far more important than what you are going to do when (or if) you get to work, or get home, or get to whatever your destination might be.
Even something as simple as writing this blog involves being present (the actual flow of writing, feeling the keys under my fingers, etc), as well as being in the future (what will the next paragraph be about?) and the past (where I edit the earlier portion of this sentence for a clash of verb tenses, looking back for consistency, or the lack thereof).
What do you tend to focus on, and in which aspects of your life? Security guards at gates or on patrol, one would hope, are focused on the present while on duty, right? When you are with your friends, or loved ones, you should be focused on the present, and to some extent, them as well, right?
Grab some paper and write down what you tend to focus on in the different roles you have in your life. When you are at work, how often do you focus on the past, present, or future? Do different tasks at work change what you focus on, or how much time you spend on each?
Once you have a fair list, including something from each area of your life (work, social, family, play, or however you divide your life), look at all the answers. Is there a pattern to your lists? Do you tend to be in the present, or are you primarily in the past, or perhaps the future? What are your habits?
By better understanding how your mind works, you can better prepare yourself. If you realize that you are busy using meeting time to plan the reset of the day, or review what has happened already, you will know to put extra effort into staying focused on what is happening in the present.
The same could be said for many other tasks, from driving to dating. There are times for our thoughts to be in the past. There are times for our thoughts to be in the future. However, the rest of the time, our thoughts should be in the present. At least that’s my opinion. What is yours?
From: Twitter, @gradeaway
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/blaisepasc159874.html
Photo by paparutzi