On Being Present
Countless spiritual teachers from Buddha and Lao Tze to Ram Dass and Eckart Tolle have urged us to be in the present moment.
In a sense, we are always in the present. Our past we know from memories, but those memories are experienced in the present. Similarly, our future is something we imagine—again an experience in the present. Whatever we may be thinking and doing we are doing it "now." Even when we are totally wrapped up in thoughts about the past or the future, the thoughts themselves are happening "now."
When we say we are not in the present we really mean that our attention is not in the "now." It is looking back to the past or forward to the future. To return to the present is to return our attention to the here and now.
The mind that is attending to the present is a mind that is free from distracting self-talk about what has or has not happened or what might or might not happen..
A mind in the present moment is free to experience "what is." This does not imply that we no longer take any notice of the past, nor consider the future. There is still much to learn from the past, and many ways we can influence the future and so improve the quality of our lives and the lives of others. The difference is that in the present moment we find an inner stability and mental clarity that frees us to respond to these needs with greater wisdom and acceptance.
In the present we are in touch with our selves, our inner essence. There is no longer any need to derive an identity from our interactions with the world. Our sense of being is no longer at the mercy of how others see us. Our essence needs no qualification or recognition. Nor can it be threatened. It is always there, a steady ground beneath all our varying experiences.
Knowing our inner essence to be invulnerable, the mind is not caught up in concern. And a mind free from concern is a mind at peace.