When Not To Be Present in the Moment
Learning to be present in the moment is an admirable goal. When we’re fully focused on what is happening in the present moment, we feel gratitude for all we have right now and make better decisions. However, there are times when you should aspire not to be present in the moment. Letting your mind wander to the past and future can help you to achieve your goals and experience self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-love.
It’s true that reminiscing about the past, pining for the days when you were younger and more fit, accomplished, admired, or respected might make you quite melancholy, especially if you have regrets. Maybe listening to the music of your past gives you bittersweet pleasure as you think about the joy you had and the pleasures that may never come again. But what if you could recapture aspects of the self you were when those songs were popular when you felt the possibilities for your life were boundless? Imagine yourself as you are today, standing next to the self you once were, sharing each others’ energy, emotions, and wisdom. Imagine you could bring with you the excitement yet keep your wisdom, gained through experience. What if you could regain much of what you lost or left behind?
If your mind wanders to the future, do you tell yourself you shouldn’t daydream, that you should be realistic? Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to stop your mind from pondering the possibilities of what might be. Or perhaps you think about what lies ahead and become anxious. Do you worry about what you might lose or how you might suffer instead of becoming excited about opportunities for joy, growth, and new experiences appearing? Do you ever just let yourself daydream about a future that would bring fun and joy to an arid life that you are currently living? Maybe you don’t believe that a much better future is possible for you. Why do you think that is?
Memories can remind us that we have not lost our ability to engage the world with a sense of enthusiasm, ready to create something new for ourselves. Daydreams can help us bring into being what otherwise might not have materialized.
In my quest to become better at working with people as a psychologist and helping them write better stories for their lives, I have studied with many shamans. I’ve learned that they will often track the future of the person who has come to them seeking healing. They do not look for the most likely trajectory but for a preferred one. Knowing what could be, however unlikely it might seem to the rational mind, the shaman brings back helpful energies from the future so the seeker’s energy field can be altered. This healing experience can set the person on a new course. What if you could change the course of your life? What would you want to experience?
A shaman might also travel to the past to seek lost soul parts, split off from a person’s energy field. Let yourself remember who you once were and you might reclaim lost optimism and forgotten courage that can serve you today and into the future.
You could act as your own shaman and use rituals and techniques for healing that bring to you today the best of the past and the gifts of possibility that lie in your future. One benefit to reminiscing and daydreaming is that you can recognize that you want to change your life for the better even though you have much to be thankful for today. Releasing what is not working for you, bringing in what you desire, and changing the path you are on may be more possible than you think.
So let yourself dream of reclaiming what you lost and bringing into your life what you never had. Then commit to letting go of the old story of your life that is no longer serving you. Learn how to change your story and change your life through using techniques for healing that allow you to work with the past and future as shamans do—for example, you might use journeying, dialoguing, ritual, or ceremony.
The choice to do healing work can help you retain all that you are grateful for right now in this moment yet experience even greater happiness, health, and abundance. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you find your mind wandering to the past as a feeling of nostalgia arises—or wandering to the future as you daydream about achieving what you desire. Be present in the moment when you can. But use your nostalgic reminiscing and your daydreaming as inspiration. Commit to working with the past and the future through daydreaming, envisioning, and remembering instead of always focusing on today.
A version of this article appeared in OMTimes.
Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD, is a retired clinical psychologist and Jungian analyst, a businessman, and a shamanic practitioner, author, and philanthropist funding over 60 charities and more than 850 past and current Greer Scholars. He has taught at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago and been on staff at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being.