More often than not, we live our lives on autopilot. We are so conditioned by our thoughts to go from A to B and from B to C automatically that we never stop to smell the roses and take in the scenery. In other words, we never get to live our “real” lives.
Most People Live a Fictitious Life
What do you mean by that? You may ask. Life is very real to me, where’s the fiction you’re talking about?
Let me ask you a question. When was the last time you locked your front door “without” being lost in thought (only to come back a few seconds later to double check it)?
When is the last time you took a shower in the morning “without” being already at the office in your mind?
When is the last time you ate a meal “without” thinking about something else the entire time?
Locking your door, taking a shower and eating a meal is your life. Your incessant thoughts that keep you isolated from reality are 100% fiction.
I’m not suggesting here that you’re constantly thinking frivolous, unnecessary thoughts, but that your thoughts are not your real life. Your life is what happens to you in the moment — every moment.
Why is this almost continuous lack of presence a problem?
Because most of the time, the type of thoughts occupying your mind preventing you from being present are either repetitive useless thoughts that don’t serve you at all, a modified-by-your-brain past, your future version of reality, or worse yet, thoughts centered on anxiety, regret, anger, or countless other disempowering feelings.
The Delusion of Time
Whether you’re aware of it or not, time is a fictional construct. While useful to make an appointment, it’s totally unnecessary when it comes to living your life moment to moment.
If your mind is constantly living in the past or in the future but never in the present moment, then you’re just living in a delusion of time.
Now, this is not your real life, it’s a smokescreen created by your ego in the form of an uninterrupted stream of thoughts that keeps you occupied and distracted from the actual life that’s unfolding right in front of your nose.
Here’s the problem: this ego-based delusion will keep you stuck in time, in the prison of your own anxieties, past beliefs, worry about the future, in fear or trying something new and more often than not, in poor mental health.
If You Think Too Much About Your Life, Then You’re Avoiding It
If you’re focusing most of the time on what happened to your life in the past, or on the life that you expect (or dread) to live in the future, then you're not living your life — you’re avoiding it.
Here’s an example: if you go to a concert and instead of watching and experiencing it moment to moment, you spend the entire time posting about it, then you’re missing your life.
Now, you may end up with a written record of it, and maybe a lot of likes, thumbs up, upvotes, etc., but once the moment is gone, you can never get it back.
That life, that raw energy, that connection with the sound, the artist, the life-affirming vibe of the moment was overruled by your desire to get a potential thumbs up of recognition in the future and thus making you miss out on the present, on your actual experience.
There’s Only One Life to Live and It Has no Past or Future
Life can only be lived in the present moment. Any past or future time that dwells in your mind isn’t real. Now, an event from the past might have been real at the time, but it no longer is. And anticipating or living in fear of the future is also not real but a fabrication of your mind as well.
Life, real life, the only life there is, can only exist in the present, moment to moment, second by second. It has no past and no future.
Now, if you had a great experience in the past, like the birth of your child, that’ll certainly be a memory to cherish at any time. But the only reason wonderful memories bring a smile to your face is because you “lived them” in the present moment at that time.
The problem is the persistent, disempowering thoughts that seem to occupy our minds much of the time that are the real danger, because they keep you from living your life.
So, in order to live your “real” life, you need to make a concerted effort to be in full awareness as much as possible. But be prepared to fail at first. This is something that will take a lot of practice. Shutting down incessant thoughts is not something you can master instantaneously.
What’s the best way to practice? Just start with the little things. When you’re grocery shopping, focus on the items you’re purchasing, don’t shop mindlessly. When you’re driving, focus on the scenery ahead, not on what you’re going to do later in the day.
If you’re planning something, like your day’s tasks, be present when you do it but don’t be thinking about it every waking moment thereafter.
The more you live your life in the present at the exclusion of past and future, the more fulfilling you'll become, and the better memories you’ll get to relish and share with others!