A balanced mind abides in the present moment.
To abide means to remain, continue, stay, dwell, reside. The mind only knows now, this present moment. There is no past or future. Have I presented another paradox? If the mind knows only the now then what is going on when I spend an entire day dwelling on past mistakes, losses or disappointments? What is going on when I spend an entire night in fear and anxiety over future possibilities? I am bringing the past and/or the future into the present moment and my mind will respond accordingly as will my body and my emotions.
When I abide in the past, whether the memories are filled with joy or trauma, my mind interprets it as happening in the present. Abiding in the future, whether I look forward with joyful anticipation or anxiety-filled dread, my mind thinks it is happening right now. Aside from the physical and emotional responses that are triggered, I am totally oblivious to and missing out on the present moment.
Yes, there are times when the future or the past are appropriately part of the present. When families get together and share laughter and joy while reminiscing, that is their present moment. When a young family prepares for the birth of a child months ahead of its arrival, that is their present moment. These experiences come and go and the attention returns to the beauty of the sky, paying bills on time, or preparing a meal that will be shared lovingly with the family.
The key is developing the ability to abide in the moment. I come back to each person finding what works for them, what keeps them in the here and now. For me, when I walk, my intention is to see, hear and enjoy my world. I watch the sky, listen to the birds, say hi to neighbors and pet their dogs. I breathe the air and allow gratitude for my life, even when at present it is filled with challenges. Therefore, no headphones with music or cellphone conversations accompany me as I walk.
Years ago, Thich Nhat Hanh, suggested on one of his tapes to walk very slowly to the phone when it rings. As you walk, ask yourself if you can be fully present with the person calling. If you cannot stop what you are doing and be only with that person, do not answer the phone. Call them later. (Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese monk living in exile. The primary focus of his loving, compassionate teaching is mindfulness.)
The only way to begin is to become aware of your own mental patterns. It is important to embrace this awareness without judgement. Awareness allows me to accept what I have been doing to avoid the present moment. Once I accept that I have created these patterns, I can forgive myself if necessary and begin to create new patterns of mental behavior.
I must acknowledge that, for many people, this process is enhanced through counseling with a professional therapist. I am in this group. There have been a number of times in my life when therapy was essential to finding and maintaining a healthy mental state of being. Others need medication in addition because they live with a chemical imbalance of some type that must be treated in order for them to be able to experience healthy thought patterns. Remember, the physical directly impacts the mental and vice versa.
May you learn to abide in the moment as you discover the balance of body, mind and emotions that allows you to do so. Peace, tranquility and contentment will follow and also abide with you.