A Plea for the Present

By Ekasmayi Naresh
Picture Source: Pinterest

It is easy to think back to Master Ooguway’s often quoted line from the Kung fu Panda movie, “…the yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present”. But try as we might, it’s a lot harder to give ourselves completely to the present and live each moment to its fullest. This kind of sagely wisdom is not only the preserve of the cinematic world. An emerging branch of Psychology based on mindfulness extolls the virtues of being fully present in the here and now. It explains how this practice accrues many benefits not restricted to, but greatly focused on reducing anxiety, depressive symptoms, negative impacts of trauma and helping improve the overall sense of wellbeing. With all this to gain from attending fully to the present moment, what is stopping us? While the many ways in which we obstruct here-and-now living are only limited by our own creativity, some of the most common manifestations of these self-defeating issues are interesting to note.

Pressure for passed time

Do you find yourself worrying about why you aren’t getting stuff done? Do you feel like hours are spent on thinking back on why you wasted another full day and still have nothing to show for? Does looking at the passing dates on a calendar make you shudder with anxiety about how you have missed another self-imposed deadline? Any and all of this is a clear sign of how you may be pressuring yourself into performing. This invariably leads to failing to meet your expectations. The tell-tale teasing of a ticking clock telling you what you should be doing and how productive you ought to be is nothing but an ever-tightening noose around your neck. Some feel such supposedly outcome-driven thinking can do wonders by keeping one on their toes. However, the results usually backfire, with the consequent anxiety zapping any energy to actually get work done and depriving one of any motivation that is essential to continue striving. It is better to push pause, come back to the present, instead of planning and working relentlessly for a future that is elusive at best. 

The “what’s next” trap

If you, like the many others, are in a flux because of the pandemic raging through the world outside, unaware of what you will or should be doing once it all goes back to normal, here’s looking at you, kid. You can ponder over the question of “what’s next” and Tom Cruise your way to finding the answer to this almost impossible looking proposition but nothing is set in stone. You can only do so much in this time of extreme uncertainty. This question is particularly bothersome to people who’ve recently gotten out of a long-term engagements, like work or education, but still haven’t decided on the next course of action. While the situation in itself is sufficiently stressful, repeatedly being asked the same question, by others and yourself, only makes matters worse. Cancel out this white noise of a question, instead reside to dealing with a day at a time; acknowledge that this is a time of great churning and that what may be the norm today could well be turned on its head tomorrow, so it does little good to succumb to fears of not having everything figured out. 

Compare and contrast

Having objectives to aim for and models to aspire to be like are healthy, even necessary parts of progressing but nothing jeopardizes this progress more than the constant barrage of comparisons to others who seem to be achieving an endless wishlist of goals. When next you see yourself indulging in this, it might help to make a mental note of the fact that everyone’s capacities, resources and pace of working are not the same, so only looking at the end and not the means to that end is unfair on yourself. Another major distortion that should be dispelled is the idea of perfection that one assumes the other is displaying. There is no way of knowing if the public persona on display is the one to be believed or if the greatly glorified image of the ideal as seen on social media is in fact legitimate. There is always more than meets the eye. Do not berate yourself for not having mimicked another’s blueprint for life. You forge a different course and that can happen only if you give yourself time and space to be your own individual self.

At the end of the day, these are nothing more than personal reflections that may also mirror some aspects of the world outside. While it is easy enough to type away these supposedly insightful lines, it’s no easy feat to actually change one’s reality which is governed by these and many other challenges. In fact, articulating it all made me realize that this exercise was as much meant to quell my own inner critique as it was to help reason those of the readers’. But away from all the clichés and pedantry, what ultimately matters is how well one is doing in the present to be able to build on the past and to better the future.

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