Sh*t Just Got Real: Why Living In The Present Moment Is So Hard And What To Do About It

How many times does your mind wander throughout the day? And not in the imagining yourself on a beautiful beach kind-of-way, but the “Why did I say that”, “Where did I leave my keys”, “What am I doing with my life” kind-of-way.

You know, this thing called mindfulness teaches us to try to focus on our present state. On what we’re experiencing at the moment, how we feel, what we notice; it teaches us to observe.

The thing about this is, it’s really hard to do. And you know what, it’s just easier for some to do than others. Yes, some people have it easier. And it doesn’t feel fair.

As a mental health professional, I am attuned to the fact that people come from a variety of backgrounds; everyone brings something different to the table. As a yoga teacher, I believe in the power of shared connection. As a sufferer of anxiety (like real anxiety), I struggle with the fact that it’s so easy for some people to be present — and so damn hard for others.

The brain, as complex as it is, functions differently in each living being. In a perfect world, every human would have an equal opportunity to reach a place of true inner peace, but our world isn’t perfect. Biology, genetics, life choices and experience all impact the way your brain is wired and functions.

Now, this is by no means an excuse to allow yourself to be swallowed by your problems, rather, an opportunity to figure out what is different about you and how to make your life work for you.

The good news is that no 2 moments are exactly the same  — not ever. As each second passes, a new context for each particular situation arises. Sure, our feelings might be so similar sometimes that one moment mimics another, but the surrounding context in which those feelings arise will always be slightly different.

So why does this matter? Well, if no two moments are the same, and we know that our current situation isn’t permanent, then there is hope for those of us who worry. Hope for those of us who dwell, get ‘stuck’ or struggle to be present minded.

Did you ever stop to think (in between your regularly nagging thoughts!) that happiness is actually temporary? It’s an emotion, and emotions are temporary. This means that anger, sadness, frustration, joy, jealousy, rage and bliss, are all temporary.

No, I’m not saying it’s impossible to live a “happy” life, rather, we should be thankful that the more difficult emotions are temporary too.

Life changes — in fact, the only constant is change. Each new moment creates a new context and circumstances, and with each moment we are given the opportunity to make a decision about how we want to experience that moment.

So why is it easier for some people to be more mindful? To experience presence, in all its gloriousness? Well, the fact that we’re wired differently means that we think and behave differently. It’s easier for some of us to get caught up in perpetual cycles of thought, and in particular, negative thought.

Some of us have behavioral patterns that are very deeply engrained, I mean years in the making. We are accustomed to patterns that look like this: stimuli/trigger followed by a reaction/behavior followed by a response/reward. An common place to get stuck is in the reward.

Reward can be positively or negatively reinforced. The patterns with which we reinforce determine how we perpetuate the cycle of our behavior. They impact how mindful we are able to be.

Here are some examples of positive and negative reinforcement.

Positive reinforcement: Sally sticks to her calorie allotment for the day and her personal trainer tells her “Good Job!”

Negative reinforcement: Jimmy does his homework because he knows if he doesn’t, he will get yelled at by his teacher.

When positively reinforced, the Sally’s work is affirmed and she feels good. Sally thinks, sticking to my calories makes me feel good. This increases the likelihood that Sally will stick to her calories again. When negatively reinforced, Jimmy will still do his homework, but without any sense of positive motivation or incentive. He is doing the homework to avoid negative recourse.

Oh, and of course there’s punishment.

Positive Punishment: A child talks out of turn during class. Their teacher reprimands them in front of the class (making the child less likely to do the behavior again).

Negative Punishment: A child gets a brand new toy they love but then fights with their sibling. The parent takes away the toy (removing the desired object to decrease the fighting behavior in the future).

This translates into adult actions

Why is it so easy to get lost in your own stream of consciousness? How come it’s so easy for some of us to ‘turn it off’, and for others the off switch is like finding a needle in a haystack — a seemingly endless haystack?

Well, I am no expert at living in my own present moment, but I ….. do know a thing or two about how the mind works.

As a “responsible” adult (okay somewhat at least) i feel the need to worry about certain things, and then i am reminded when a seemingly ‘perfect’ moment occurs, i must take a step back and feel that moment – because if you don’t you’ll miss it. many of the most precious moments in our lives occur in exactly that – moments.

We remember, cherish, and reflect on those moments as reminders of the things that are important to us- reminders of what made (and makes) us feel good.

Sometimes, though, we get caught up in the memories of the past moments and the present moment passes us by.

It’s the smallest, sometimes most ‘insignificant’ moments that bring us the most clarity.

Next time you find yourself living in your past moments or worrying about future moments that have not yet occurred, take a moment to take in the present moment.

You cannot truly experience life as if moments are not observed as moments.

In the time in took you to read this, several moments passed. no two of them were the same. maybe over the course of reading this you grew hungry, cold, happy, sad, felt empty, or complete. now, in this moment you feel something different.


and again, something slightly different


makes you think a little.


are we….

truly capturing….

the most out of each moment??

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