Being Present: Our Tendency to Imagine Problems.

Being present means not imagining what is wrong for a moment. If we can avoid imagining there is something wrong, we can notice there isn't really anything wrong. This may sound like a radical statement only because of our relentless habit of imagining that something is wrong, so we'll begin at the beginning.

Our highly evolved minds have the ability to compare present circumstances to past experiences and to project imagined experiences into the future. While this has an evolutionary survival function, we've co-opted this function in the same way that we co-opted the function of unconsciously programming mundane tasks. Most folks use this predictive ability to rather continuously imagine how our present experience could be better, and this means authentic happiness is not possible.

being present While there's nothing wrong with improving the circumstances of our lives, perhaps you can see that if we are always wanting, thinking about and moving toward some better imagined future circumstances, the present experience will always be viewed as a means to an end and cannot be fully enjoyed. Something will always be wrong with our present experience and we'll always be living for a future experience that never quite arrives, since we will then be focused on yet another, better experience. Life becomes a continual movement toward an image in the mind rather than the vibrant, alive experience of being present to what is here now.

It's this tendency to hold a future image in the mind that makes it appear as though something is missing now. Looking to see if something is missing in order to verify this idea is still the same process of imagining what is missing, and so it's necessary to flip around the question and put the imagination on hold for a moment. In this moment, being present to your experience right now, is there the possibility that peace and contentment are already here? Is there the possibility that life is playing out as a miraculous wonder of continuously changing sensation and feeling right now? What is it like to not imagine that there is anything wrong right now? Is there something vaugely uncomfortable about not imagining something better?

If we really pay attention, most of us can notice that we're only briefly satisfied with being present wherever we are, doing whatever we are doing. If we're watching TV, we're thinking about going to the park. If we're at the park, we're thinking about going to visit a friend. If we're visiting the friend, we're thinking about eating dinner. Even when we're enjoying ourselves and nothing is wrong, we look for something that needs to be different, which makes being present to our own present experience impossible. We can't stop moving long enough to actually be where we are, and so we are never anywhere but in our thoughts about where we want to be.

Now

In this way, our search for happiness is the very thing that makes authentic happiness impossible to hold onto. We allow ourselves to be present and experience that satisfaction for only a short while before we start working on a plan to keep it, improve it or repeat it, and then we've lost it. We could say the secret to happiness is to stop looking for it and notice it's already here. Happiness doesn't actually depend on the particular events that are happening or the circumstances that present themselves.

So why don't we notice this and just start being present and enjoy life, flowing with the opportunities to improve our circumstances as they present themselves? Because without a problem to be solved and somewhere to get to, there literally is no self. The self is an image formed around experiences and goals, meaning that the self is a verb rather than a noun, a doer rather than a be-er. What most folks identify themselves with is a directed movement of experience, and while the experience happens by itself, if the self directing ceases, the self defined by that self directing is thrown into what is basically an existential crisis. Who are you if you are not the one moving toward something better?

While the answer to that question is outside the scope of this article, allowing yourself to relax the need to turn your present experience into a problem will change the focus from 'How do I find happiness?' to 'How do I stop making myself unhappy?', and we find ourselves much closer to the real issue, and a step closer to self actualization.

Phil Beaumont

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Self Actualization

More Self Actualization articles:

Living Consciously 1
Living Consciously 2
Split Mind
When does Feeling Become Suffering?
Breaking Habits
Is Struggle the Effect or Cause of Suffering?
Happiness is an Idea
Imagining Problems
Serial Problem Solver
The Delusion of Burt the Bunny
Realization Vs Thinking
Imaginary Feelings
Realization is Self Evident
Seeing Through illusions
The Habit Game

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"To identify oneneself as a separate entity in a universe that refuses to acknowledge and support that separateness, is suffering."
Phil Beaumont

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