A Post By Jonathan"Do not stay in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate on the present moment."
"If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present."
― Lao Tzu
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”
― Bil Keane (the guy who wrote the Family Circus cartoons)
First off, a bit of a disclaimer. I am not a mental health professional, a certified writing coach or some new age Yogi perched upon the precipice of a cliff at sunset with my legs crossed, thumb and forefingers pressed together, going haaaummm. I'm just a regular guy trying to make it through life with the best outlook possible, willing to take advice from just about anyone.
That said, I do turn forty in a couple a months. And as I approach the "top of the hill" I've been thinking a lot about contentment and what it means to be happy in this often crazy world. In my search for the meaning of life, I recently came across a concept that I wanted to share (just in case you haven't heard it before). I think it can help both in writing and in life.
The official term is Mindfulness, but it's also called being in the present. According to Webster's dictionary, mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. Basically it means that you are not busy focusing on or lamenting the past and you are not pining or wishing for a better future. You are simply thinking about where you are and what you are doing at that particular moment. Nothing else.
If this sounds familiar, it's probably because mindfulness closely resembles the mental state that is achieved during the best and most subversive writing sessions. We've all been there before. All other thoughts are blocked out, totally in the moment, just you and your character(s) in your world― and it feels great! And it's probably what keeps us coming back for more.
But sometimes I think it's easy for us writers to let our thoughts get away from us, and take a turn towards the negative. We are not nonjudgmental― and easily our harshest critics. Especially the newbies.
Some days when I sit down to write I tense up with all sorts of notions about how I'm not good enough, or how my work will never be published. I probably think I'm not good enough because of things that have happened in my past, and I probably think I'm not going to get published because I'm focusing too much on an uncertain future. But if I could block these doubts out of my mind, and just focus on the present (and the act of the writing), I'm sure I could be much more productive― and eventually more successful. Just a thought!
As you can see from the quotes above, from ancient and modern philosophers alike, being in the present is not a new concept. But it's kind of new to me. I for one know that I am going to try to think (and write) more in the moment moving forward, and I hope this post helps you do the same.
As always, thanks for stopping by. And please let me know what you think!