I know I’ve been silent for awhile. I’ve been struggling with some personal nonsense lately. This has led me to begin looking inward more, which in turn has led me to stop projecting outward (or at least to limit it a bit).
One technique I’ve found helpful is mindfulness, which comes from the Buddhist tradition of Vipassanā. Mindfulness teaches us the importance of living in the present moment.
The Present Moment
So much of our lives are based on our pasts and what we imagine for our future. This leads to most of the suffering that we experience in our daily lives. Think about it: most of our lives are spent frustrated about what we did or didn’t do in the past, and about what we intend to do in the future. And guess what? – These kinds of thoughts prevent us from thinking clearly about what to do in the present.
I’ve found that existence is so much less unpleasant when I focus on the now. When your thoughts dwell on the past, gently usher them back to the present. An easy way to do this is by being mindful of how those thoughts of the past make you feel now.
After all, most of why we reflect on the past is because we’re unhappy with some aspect of the now. So figure out what the real root of your problem is and the past will stay where Nature intended: in the past.
Further, it’s important to look at our thoughts and feelings without judgement. It’s pretty funny when you actually look at how our emotions work. We’ll get depressed. And then we’ll think “wait a minute there’s people who have it way worse, what do I have to be depressed about?” And then next thing you know, you’re depressed about being depressed. We do the same with anger. We get angry initially, and then get angry about being angry! It makes me so mad when I do that!
We do this to ourselves mainly because of societal expectations. I mean there’s no objective reason to judge our own thoughts. It’s society that tells us how to think and why to think it. It’s society that tells us it’s not good to be sad. It’s society that tells us suicidal people are selfish. I could go on all day.
You can’t help your thoughts. We all have them. And we all have pretty similar thoughts when you really look at it. We’re not all that unique really. And we’re all interconnected.
Try this next time you’re bothered by your emotions: don’t judge them in any way. Embrace them. Let yourself feel what your mind knows you need to feel in the moment. The feelings will pass on their own. Shoving them out the door will only make them linger, so you may as well invite them in for tea.
Besides, our emotions are beautiful. Every last one of them. Fuck how society views them. The ups and downs of our emotions are every bit as beautiful as the ebbs and flows of the ocean. Think about the ebb and flow of music. Could you imagine music that only embodied societally correct emotions? There would be no dynamic contrast! No poetic inflection! It would be downright boring! Your emotions shouldn’t be filtered through society’s lens. Your emotions should be interpreted musically.
Bottom line: be reflective, not deflective.
Be Mindful – Not Mindless
Last thing. Mindfulness is awareness of our present moment. Oftentimes we get so caught up in worries that our minds basically go on autopilot. That’s mindlessness, and it’s no way to live. Don’t fear the past or the future.
Allow the past to teach you, but don’t let it rule you. Likewise, recognize that your actions now will affect some future, but realize also that dwelling on some imagined future will only stifle your progress in the present. Live in the now.