- Education and Science
Every Moment of your Life
Every moment of your life is … every moment of your life. You can live the moments of your life or you can let them pass you by. It is your choice.
Every moment that passes while your thoughts are elsewhere is a moment of your life that you are missing: going, going, gone. The moments of our lives only come once.
In our body we have organs. The liver produces bile, the pancreas produces insulin, and the brain produces thoughts. Just as you would not generally want your pancreas to stop doing its job, you would not want your brain to stop producing thoughts. Therefore a brain that is producing thoughts is a happy circumstance.
Sometimes thoughts are sometimes fun and sometimes troubling. There are thoughts that you enjoy. Enjoyment is a good way to spend a moment. Other thoughts are less enjoyable, but nevertheless worthwhile. For example, if you notice that a steel desk is falling from a third story window directly above you, well, that’s a troubling thought. But it is good that it triggers an emergency response in your brain, causing your brain to think that it might be a good idea to get out of the way immediately.
The impulse to save oneself from the falling desk is derived from if-then thinking: “If that desk falls on me, then I might be injured.” Clearly, this kind of if-then thinking is vital to our survival, but when it is carried over into our fantasy life it can be needlessly troubling.
Constructing fantasies about negative outcomes is almost every brain’s favorite hobby. “If I don’t complete this job on time then I’ll get fired. If I get fired then no one will hire me. If no one hires me then I will lose my home. If I am homeless then I will freeze to death in the street.” Although there is a slight chance that some or all of this may happen, most or all of it will probably not happen. The whole story line usually turns out to be a make believe story. Feelings of fear, sadness, despair, anger or other negative emotion that may have accompanied these thoughts were a waste of time and energy; that is, moments that might have been spent enjoying life were instead spent not enjoying life. They were moments spent living in a fictional future.
A byproduct of living in a fictional negative future is forgetting what one is doing in the present. Experiences like leaving important papers at home, forgetting to lock the door, locking the keys in the car or absentmindedly walking under a steel desk as it falls from a third story window may result. In short, thinking about possible future negative outcomes may lead (or perhaps attract) present negative outcomes.
This is different than planning. Planning can be fun. Using our brains we can often discern challenges that lie between us and our happiness and plan how we will overcome these obstacles. We can also make a “Plan B” in case our “Plan A” does not pan out. After we create a plan, we can follow it. However, if we fear failure in advance of every step in our plan, we subject ourselves to needless suffering. If we follow our plan and avoid worrying about outcomes, and remain open and receptive to new paths as they open for us, we can face the future without concocting disturbing, fearful mental stories along the way.
No one knows the future. It is unproductive to predict an unhappy future for oneself. It is also not fun. I believe that we should have fun whenever we can while we are still alive.
A good way to avoid being trapped in a bad future by one’s own bad stories and have fun now is to strive to maintain one’s attention on the present moment. Life only occurs in the present moment. One should try to be present in their own life whenever they can so that they don’t miss it. There is no end to the wonders one can observe while maintaining attention on the present.
When you focus steadfastly on your actions and surroundings you may notice that your brain continues to interject thoughts that concern the past or future. That’s fine. Note the thought, don’t let it trouble you, and just let it pass as you bring your focus back to the present moment. Many thoughts may come. Just note them all, let them pass and return your full attention to the present moment.
Focusing on each small detail of life, we see the wonder of our actions. Marvelous mechanisms like the human hand and unique sensations such as your feet making contact with the Earth with each step await your attention. The miracle of breathing is constantly there for you to enjoy. Enjoy? Yes, inhaling and exhaling are pleasurable if you fully experience them. Observing the beauty arrayed before you , whatever is before you – the sky, the pavement, the grass, birds or other creatures, and your fellow humans in all of their frenetic activity may astound you if you are truly and deeply attentive.
Life is too entertaining to miss while worrying about some theoretical future. Try to pay attention as often as you can.