While wasting time on Facebook one afternoon, I stumbled upon this quote:
“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.
I found myself reading those three lines several times and reflecting on the powerful message those few words contained. So often we find ourselves dwelling on events from the past or stressing about things that have not happened yet. The problem is focusing on the past or the future can prevent us from being able to enjoy our present. So the question becomes how do we step into the light of the present?
Worry about the past can haunt us. Memories from 10, 20 even 50 years ago can impact our emotions today. Those memories can move us to happy tears or stir up our anger. Our memories are the story of where we come from and how our world shaped us. However, when we obsess about past situations that we cannot change, we risk living in the past. When we find ourselves living in the past we are not really paying attention to what is before us. Focusing on the past can keep us from enjoying our friends and family, enjoying favorite activities, and even moving forward in our careers. Not enjoying things can be a symptom of depression but what if we didn’t need a pill to treat it?
Stress about the future can be just as overwhelming as dwelling on the past. Will I get that new job? Will my kids be successful? What if my car breaks down? All of these thoughts (and thousands of others that we have every day) can drag us out of the present. Living in the future creates a world of anxiety where you are constantly trying to predict the future. You can waste copious amounts of time preparing for things that will never happen. Sometimes our focus on the future can keep us from enjoying the wonderful things that are actually happening.
One of the simplest ways to bring your awareness to the present moment is to focus on your breath.
- Practice breathing slowly.
- Once you have mastered slowing down your breath, practice deep breathing. Inhaling deeply from your diaphragm, hold your breath for a moment and then exhale deeply.
- Practice this 3 to 5 times and notice what is happening in your body.
Your mind may feel calmer, your heart may be beating steadier, and you may feel your muscles start to relax. Simply by focusing on your breath you can bring your awareness to the present. Breathing with awareness is one of the simplest tools for living in the moment. It is a tool we carry it with us everywhere we go and can access at any moment.
If you are ready to release yourself from your past, stop worrying about the future, and/or learn additional tools for being in the present, please contact us at Chrysalis Counseling. To work with Michele, MFT Intern (author of this article) call 417-322-4033 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.chyrsaliscounselingstl.com to learn more.