#012 | Do not dwell in the past

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

Think about when you feel pain and misery. It likely comes from thinking something shouldn’t be the way it is.

This time of year can be especially hard for some of us as we look around at the mayhem and superficiality that comes with holidays, making it easy to focus on how bad the past year has been or how uncertain the next year may look today, instead of concentrating on just this exact present moment that we’re in right now.

I’ve recently been struggling a lot with staying focused solely on the present moment, because despite all of the hard work, day in and day out, that I put in, this past year particularly has been filled with one crushing, disappointing blow after another. And because I don’t like to voice my complaints about things that are personal, very few people ever really know exactly what’s bothering me, or that anything at all is wrong. But I will admit that much of my pain has to do with not accepting the present for what it is.

When I think about the past ten years, I often find myself trying to figure out where I went wrong—what I could’ve or should’ve done differently, thinking maybe I should’ve chosen different schools or made different career choices, because back then, I was always dreaming about the future—about where I’d be today. I wasn’t living in the present then. I was thinking about what might (or should) be in ten years. And quite honestly, this was not the way it was supposed to be.

But here I am now, trying not to focus on what’s passed, and trying not to do what I was doing years ago by surmising the future. I still have dreams, and I work toward them with vigor like you wouldn’t believe. One day at a time is my motto, but really, the goal is to focus on one moment at a time, because even though during weak moments I sometimes look back and despise the past, I must admit that I missed a lot—perhaps a lot of cool stuff—because I wasn’t living in the moment.

So think about it: Do you find yourself in misery and pain because you’re constantly thinking that something shouldn’t be the way it is?

Today’s assignment: Take 5 minutes to just write whatever is on your mind at this very moment. It can be anything—something you see out the window, the food in front of you, or even the random nothingness that might be floating through your head. Afterward, think about the freedom you felt by just being in the moment for those 5 minutes.

In most Buddhist traditions, The Buddha is regarded as the Supreme Buddha. The word Buddha means “awakened one” or “the enlightened one”.