“No one can lose either the past or the future - how could anyone be deprived of what [one] does not possess? ... It is only the present moment of which either stands to be deprived: and if this is all [one] has, [one] cannot lose what [one] does not have.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
You cannot change the past and you cannot predict the future, and yet how much of your time is spent concerned about one or the other?
In contrast to the lack of control you have over past and future, the present is very much in your hands and, Marcus Aurelius suggests, it is the only thing you possess that you can really lose.
As I reflect on my own experience, I notice a pattern of "losing the present" and it's almost always self-inflicted. I ruminate over something from earlier in the day or the week and lose the present. I worry about some upcoming situation and lose the present. A free moment opens up in my day and, as if I were present-phobic, I root around for something to ruminate, worry or distract me.
To me, this is the "deprivation" that Aurelius speaks of. The good news is that we have incredible control over the present if only we could strengthen our ability and resolve to do so.
I find it interesting that the book that gave rise to this blog is called Meditations because, to me, meditation (and mindfulness) is the perfect place to start to begin to recapture the present.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a practice that is intended to encourage a heightened state of awareness and focused attention.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to aware of our moment to moment experience, including our thoughts and feelings, and not becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is taking place.
Besides just generally making you feel better, these practices have been proven to contribute to:
*Lowered blood pressure
*Reduced release of the stress hormone cortisol
*Improved immune system
*Slowed age-related atrophy of the brain
*Mitigate anxiety and depression
*Improve focus and productivity
There are numerous places you could begin in order to find out more about meditation and mindfulness. I recommend an app called "10% Happier," which was developed by Dan Harris, who wrote a book by the same name. I have struggled to establish a meditation practice for many years and this app has helped me be more consistent than ever before.
The pitch is tremendously practical and relatable. Basically, it's for people who are resistant or skeptical about meditation and works to dispel the myths that perpetuate these barriers with simple steps for establishing an effective meditation practice.
I encourage you to find out more, the only thing you have to lose is the present.
Other Mindfulness/Meditation Authors:
Jeff Warren- writer and and author of, "Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics."
Shinzen Young- teacher and developer of Unified Mindfulness.