23 April 2013

Here and Now

Source: We heart it

One of the central themes of simplicity and minimalism is the present moment, the here and now. We can't win against the past or the future because we aren't there anymore/yet, and the only moment we have control over is here and now. Let me explain a bit how understanding this changed my life.

When I was living in Japan, I went to school in the mornings and worked at a restaurant in the evenings. Usually, I had a bit of free time over the beginning of the afternoon, until I had to leave for work at about 3PM. I remember having this impression that my time didn't belong to me, that it was slipping away from me.

And 3PM was like the end of the day to me, the moment I left for work, only to come home at about 1AM. No matter that I eat a nice little "combini" dinner or took a hot bath before going to bed, my days seemed like an endless chase after time. Until, one day, I realised one simple thing: no matter how much time I have in total, I will always have time now, until I die.

We have nothing but time, really. Here and now is never going to end as long as we are alive. It is useless to mourn the past or yearn for the future, because no matter how long we had, or how long we have left, it doesn't belong to us. Only the present moment does. It sounds very abstract, and I don't know if you understand very well what I mean, but it made sense to me when I realised that, and I decided to stop running after a future that would never be mine, and enjoy the present instead.

How did it change my life? Technically, nothing much changed, but my perspective did, and so did my well-being. My days didn't "end" at 3PM any longer. I enjoyed the train ride to work by reading books, listening to music or watching my surroundings. I enjoyed the work time as I saw different types of clients passing by, I enjoyed the ride home, my little dinner and hot bath.

I started paying attention to what I was doing right now, and making the best out of it. I wasn't in a hurry anymore, brooding over a future event that isn't going to be that bad anyway, or regretting past events that I should have done better. I started enjoying what is going on now.

Which doesn't mean I stopped learning from past mistakes, or plan for future projects. It just mean that I do my best to not let that spoil what is going on here and now. And it changed my life, because I stopped worrying about many things. I started paying attention to little joys and little gifts around us that we tend to miss when we are into our minds.

It doesn't suddenly become easy to stay here and now, it took me years to improve little by little, and I am still quite often into my mind to be honest, but I am now aware of that and trying my best to stay here and now. I learned to enjoy the process as much as the goal, appreciate the mundane tasks and stop waiting for something extraordinary to be marvelled.

Does this make any sense to you? Do you enjoy the here and now, or does it just sound like minimalist soup?


  1. What you're saying makes sense to me, because it sounds like what you're engaging in there is mindfulness. Focusing on the current moment and trying to appreciate it rather than worrying about the past or the future, that's certainly the general aim of mindfulness - and it has definitely been shown to be effective at various different things, from reducing stress to treating depression (although its effectiveness will vary from person to person and depend on a lot of other factors of course).

    I have to say, I haven't really earnestly tried to engage in mindfulness myself (although I do focus on other things to try to keep myself grounded and centred), but I do want to try incorporating it into my life, especially since my move overseas and my resulting tendency to compare the pros and cons of where I live now to where I used to live or where I could live, which is probably causing me to not properly appreciate my current situation. I guess I just personally want to research mindfulness to get a better understanding of it first, although of course to a large extent it is probably quite intuitive!

    1. Mindfulness, I think that is the word I had on the tip of my tongue for the whole time when I wrote this post, without actually nailing it, thanks!

      It's interesting to know there has actually been research about the effects of that. I also saw a TED talk where the speaker compared the benefits and drawbacks of being past, present or future oriented, I need to find this talk, I may even write a follow-up post about it.

  2. Kali, I am a long-time reader but first time commenter. This is a beautiful post. I totally "get" what you are saying. I have had similar moments of realization myself, and have (mostly) embraced the on-going process and practice of being more present.

    I have been working on developing a meditation practice, and have been meditating regularly lately. I find that the practice helps me to remember what it feels like to be present - for me, it is a physical sensation too, this feeling that washes over me - and that this helps me incorporate the practice of mindfulness into my daily life.

    1. Thank you for commenting! It's always nice to hear people's appreciation. It's also nice to hear I'm not the only one who feels that way.

      It is true that meditation in any form, can help a lot with staying here and now. It is a link to body sensations. I usually practice that when doing very mundane tasks like preparing a tea or washing the dishes, I pay attention to what I hear, touch and see, to really feel the present moment physically as well, if it makes any sense...

  3. I know exactly what you mean, and I have been trying to do the same myself! I think I first read about the concept in a self help help book that I am too embarrassed to namedrop because honestly, we're talking Oprah's book club levels of cheesy here, but the general idea is the same nonetheless. It is really useful, especially for someone like me who is prone to both depression and a bit of anxiety :)

    1. Ah, sometimes there are some wise words is cheesy self help book. They just are presented in, well, a cheesy way. I've read a lot of them (the systemic part of my personality I guess) and while some were really crap, others did have interesting points to dig deeper into...