Do you remember the first time you heard about this phenomenon called “living in the moment?” The concept seemed simple enough, right? But what about the application of it to your life? Was it a bit more complex? A little too cosmic perhaps? A little woo woo? I was right there with you. I could not immediately understand how to shift my life and my focus. It was not until I applied it directly to the concept of my emotions did it all start to really jell for me. Indulge me a bit and I’ll explain.
I come from a mindset of making strategies and tools that are simple to understand and easy to apply. For me, the ‘in the moment’ tool that has worked for me (and for a lot of my clients) is looking at our emotions as the equivalent of a timeline. Think of it this way – on the left side of a line is what has happened, or the past, in the middle of the line is the present and on the far right of the line is what is going to happen or the future.
In the Past: Regret, guilt and shame are emotions that connect with something that has already happened. We feel guilt about what we did or didn’t do or regret for what we should have done. We all seem to have these feelings at one time or another, right? But what good are they? They are in the past and there is nothing we can do about it. I know, easier said than done, but really think about it. What change can you make to that past event except to look at it in a different way? That is your only means of control over the past.
I have a client whose one year anniversary of being laid off is coming up soon. She is depressed, still regrets her reaction to it and still feels resentment towards her former boss about the way it was handled. This anniversary is not for a few more weeks so my question to her is simply this: why are you rehashing these emotions every day up until that ‘dreaded day’ and why do you only view this as a negative event? You never liked the job and now you have a chance to find another path. How glorious it is to be closer to your true purpose! How great it is not to have to be managed by that boss ever again! It was a very prestigious company and you learned a lot and have the benefit of the 7 years experience on your resume. Reframe it and try to look forward to that day and celebrate your freedom with a nice meal shared with friends. Onward and upward!
Now moving along the continuum to the far right…
In the Future: When it comes to the most frequent of emotions about the Future, what comes to mind? (worry and fear goes here, anxiety and stress are in the moment! ) Worry and fear. We worry about things that could and might happen. We spend time with this fear in our bodies while we focus on what we think will be the worse case scenario that could ever happen. In essence, we are living with and through it twice. Again, the only control we have over the future is to make good choices in the present. And to let go of what could be because we are putting good energy after bad.
So that leaves us with present…
The Present: Right now, in this hour, on this day, at this very second, what are your emotions? (unrelated to past or future events) You might have stress and anxiety about your present circumstances, your relationships, your work, your health or your finances. You can admit it, it’s okay. Now what if we took the present emotions of anxiety and stress and stacked them on top of those of the past and the new ones of the future? Wow, pretty overwhelming, right? Imagine if you had to work through all of these emotions, from every section of your time line? What a load to carry!
But you don’t. No, you don’t have to even look to your left or your right on the timeline. Just deal with what you are feeling now.
Where is the present stress coming from? What about the anxiety? Work through the process, pinpoint the situational source, (without pointing fingers or assigning blame). What can you do in this moment, this hour, this day to relieve those emotions? That is the only emotional work you need to do right now – dealing with the emotions you have in this moment. Nothing else matters as it relates to the past or the future. Just now. Right now. Don’t cover them up, stuff them down or hold onto them for later. Living in the present moment means just that – LIVE. Live for a healthy Now.
When you look at your emotions along this time line, it’s easier to manage them and to work through the challenges they provide because you can ‘place’ them in a spot and understand where they come from and why.