Do you recognize that your thoughts are always about the past or the future? It is easy for you to think about this important statement as your mind is wired to recall things that already happened. If you have not damaged your brain, memory is not usually a difficult task.
All of our dialogue and conversations with our self and others involve things that have already happened or our anticipation of what the future may hold. It may include relating events, ideas, thoughts and feelings that you have experienced. But the important fact here is that these things happened in the past. When we plan our actions, have thoughts about how life may unfold or have apprehension or fear about our ability to succeed or even continue to live, our mind is in an anticipatory or future mode.
Let’s now examine how our mind produces thoughts about the present moment. No matter how hard you try to do this you will fail. Why is this? It is because your mind does not have this capacity. When you are in the present moment there are no thoughts. You can perceive something but not think it. Close your eyes and ask yourself the following question, “what is happening now at this very moment”? Now wait for an answer to come in the form of a thought. In that split second, your mind is quiet. There is no thought. But, in most cases (unless you have practiced a “presence” technique such as meditation and have trained the mind to remain still) it will immediately resume producing thoughts about the past or future.
Let’s take another example. You are outside and the sun is about to fall below the mountains. The light of the sun as it disappears reveals a brilliant orange hue. You perceive this occurrence in nature and you are now…. in the present moment. You have no thoughts. Your mind is silent. You are “one” with the perception. Now, all of a sudden, and this can be a split second later, your mind is activated and a thought arises that says, “Wow, this is so beautiful”. At this moment you are no longer in “presence” but rather in the past. Your mind has registered the experience and is now categorizing it against what it has learned about beauty and ugliness. You turn to someone next to you and say, “this is so beautiful”. What you should really say is this was so beautiful. Because now you are no longer “one” with your perception, not in the present moment, but rather your mind has taken over and is relating an experience that happened in the past. At this point your mind which is always seeking pleasure and avoiding pain will likely say, “I would love to see this again and perhaps tomorrow we shall return to this very spot to view this magnificent event”. You are now anticipating the future. And, seeking more pleasure (which we can talk about in another future post)…..ops… there I go thinking about the future!
So, “Why is it important for you to know that the mind operates in the past and future and is not capable of thinking about the present”? Of primary importance is the fact that you are not your mind. You are beyond your thinking. You are the present moment that is one with everything and everyone. To fully experience this earthly life we must recognize that the past is no longer and the future does not exist. The only reality is the present. The past and future are held in memory. And memory, good or bad, does a great job in keeping you from perceiving the present moment.
Memory coupled with time also gives us a sense of the “self” that is separate and temporary and will eventually die. These thoughts cause us fear, suffering and loneliness.
I want to be clear that despite the lack of capacity of the mind to focus on the present moment, there is indeed a role that it plays during our time on the planet. The minds ability to remember and plan ahead is important for earthly functions and overall economic purposes. It has an important function such as helping you to know the way home, or how to work your computer, how to avoid possible dangers and any number of work-related technical tasks needed to function on this plane of existence. However it is important to realize that our mind is a tool and has its limitations. We must realize that it cannot bring us to a place of deep love, peace or connectedness.
Living from a place beyond the mind in the present moment with no attachment to what was or will be is the reality and truth that we all must realize. Living in this place is our true nature and we are at home there. But you may ask if this is possible? Can we really live in the present and still put food on the table? How would this work? What would this look like? Here are a few important benefits and realizations that might help us to answer these questions:
- You can live more in the present than you think you can. With observation of how this occurs and making opportunities to practice, your mind will stay silent longer giving you relief from its musings about the past and present
- Living from a place of presence more often will allow you to be more spontaneous and alive and will rejuvenate your energy. You will make better and more creative decisions
- Being present leads to a deeper realization of love and connectedness and in this state you will operate with a more empathic and open hearted attitude in your daily living
- Being present during an important work situation or during a crucial conversation with others will allow you to deeply listen without quickly evaluating or making judgments. This will make you more objective and successful at work and with others
- Learning how your mind quickly anticipates the future by looking at its past experiences will give you valuable information as to why you feel stress and sometimes make poor decisions
- Not taking the minds thoughts, which is always made up of old (past) information, as the truth will motivate you to stay more in the present which is the only place truth resides
Letting go of the idea that “you are your thoughts” is incredibly liberating and will help you get closer to the perception of what your true being is. You are not your mind and its thoughts. You are the ever-present. And the present moment is unthinkable!