A Fair Fight

Leo Babauta on the amazing power of being present:

If you are completely present, the external forces are no longer a problem, because there is only you and that external force, in this moment, and not a million other things you need to worry about.

Vital, but so very challenging. It’s really hard, for example, to do yoga when you’ve got a hundred things on your mind and a ton of stuff to do after you’re done. It’s really hard to go to work after having a rough morning and realize it’s only Tuesday.

I thrive when I have things to look forward to. It can be anything, really: plans with friends, a new podcast to listen to, a new album coming out. Having these things in the back of my mind helps me get through the stuff I’d rather not be doing. It’s a means to an end; you have to get through the obligations in order to reach the things you’re passionate about.

But when there doesn’t seem to be anything to look forward to other than long workweeks and uneventful weekends, things can seem pretty bleak. So while having stuff to look forward to can be an advantage, it can also be a detriment when there’s nothing exciting on the calendar. That is, reliance on always having something to look forward to is not the most effective method for avoiding a bad mood.

Leo’s advice about being present is the solution. It’s a form of mindfulness:

Being present becomes, then, a way to handle any problem, any distraction, any stressor. It allows everything else to fade away, leaving only you and whatever you’re dealing with right now.

If I’m at work, I’m responsible for teaching a great karate class. I can’t let the thought of having nothing to do this weekend affect my performance. The better option would be to focus on the present moment and think about what I can do to make this class memorable for the students. Then, my fear or longing for things outside the moment will fade away, rather than dictate how I feel. This allows me to give my full attention to whatever I’m doing right now. In other words, don’t let something happening in the future affect your happiness in the here and now. Deal with it when it arrives, not when you can’t do anything about it.

If you’re present, you can fully enjoy the moment. Even if the moment finds you working on something you’d rather not be doing, you’ll be better equipped to deal with it when it has your full attention, not when you’re simultaneously thinking about ten other things.

When it’s just you and the moment, it’s one-on-one: a fair fight. All that other stuff will still be there afterward. One thing at a time.