It is all too easy to live our lives either in the past or in the future and we are actively encouraged to do so. The past is merely our memory replayed as a shadow of what has been, a mental record which still can only be experienced in the present moment. It has the power to generate such strong emotional responses however and ones which can have a dramatic effect on our lives right now. On the flip side, the future only exists as a potential of what may be in the next moment lived in the present through our imaginations. It too can stimulate strong feelings. The nervousness of expectations or the excitement of anticipation. Thinking about the future and thinking about the past are the two states with which we can find ourselves filling the day, either busying our minds with what has been or with what might be.
Ironically one of the trickiest ways in which to live is being completely and utterly in the present. The present is all we have. The past is just a recollection replayed in the present and the future is pure imagination conjured within the present. We continuously move within the present as the future tempts us with the promise of potential. As soon as we think we have advanced into the future, when we look around us we are still in the present. Here we can see how really the future and the past themselves can only exist as an experience within the present.
Take a moment to ponder this. What else is there other than being here now? This is all we ever have, just as Fatboy Slim put it ; right here, right now. How often during our day are we truly in the present? We must be here, must be there, do this, or not forget that. As a by-product of the world which we have created we spin in a constant whirlpool of to-do lists. Our minds like to be occupied with the stuff of thinking and in the exact present there really is not too much to think about, it is simply a state of being.
By allowing ourselves to just be in the moment we can help the mind to relax. With a relaxed mind the body begins to relax. A relaxed body is a healthy body and promotes a relaxed mind and all of a sudden, hazzah we find a virtuous circle. Feeling completely in the present voids the necessity for worry and therefore brings a calmness and resolve which has far reaching benefits. Easier said than done I hear you say. The mind leaps from one tree to the next like an attention deficit monkey, jeered on by the galloping hooves of our heart. A thought is just a thought however and it only has meaning when we give it attention, then it becomes thinking. Even during the calmest moments of the mind thoughts will linger like clouds in the sky.
To be in the present moment and to calm the mind completely is like climbing a mountain of false summits. Each time you think you find a space devoid of thought there you are thinking about it. Taking the time to be yourself, inside your head and to nurture stillness gives a sense of self-understanding which we are taught to avoid. A lot of the time it may be ourselves that are the teachers as we may not like what we find there. As someone somewhere once said, "when the water settles, the rocks will appear".
So how do we still the mind to live in the present you ask? I am glad you asked because we can now come back to Kung Fu. There are many, many ways and each person will find the one which works for them. Kung Fu can be a fantastic tool however as the repetition of the forms or even still Qi Gong allows the practitioner to relax the mind and focus entirely on that present moment by focusing the intent on a single task. By focusing on the breathing, the sensations in the body, the feelings of how the weight is distributed and the fluidity of the movements we can absolutely be here now. The repetition of movement can be a fantastic anchor even in the most turbulent oceans. Through repetition we can let go of the past and the future to purely enjoy the moment.
Obviously there is a hill to climb, a time to let go of questioning and move to simply doing and being. This can only come from repetition. It would be arrogant of me to suggest that this is where I am just now, that road stretches for as far as I can see. But we try a little bit every day and it's those tiny glimpses of what could be that are so rewarding. There we go, I'm thinking about the future again. I never said it was easy.