“Unfortunately there are those who confuse the Eastern precept of ‘living in the present moment’ with the Western philosophy of ‘living for the moment.’ – Michael Christy
Living in the present moment,
Living for the moment…
So close, yet so far away!
I have a friend, a beautiful friend, yet…he “lives for the moment.” He calls it “being present.” His friends experience it as being presently aware of himself, of his callings, of his interests. It doesn’t include being present to the community, or in this case, us…his friends and family. It doesn’t include being present with our time, or in this case, everyone sitting in the car waiting and waiting, because he asked us to be ready at 8:00 am, but he had a phone call to make instead. He thinks indecisively, and he likes to change his plans instantly, based on what will work out best for him. And we all notice, what works out best for him usually means we all supply the resource: we drive, we pay for gas, we make lunch, we share our homes, and he supplies what he calls “presence” and he supplies “coaching us on how to overcome our frustration and anger.” So funny…and does it sound familiar? Sound like someone you know?
But honestly, this is an important distinction to make…because words like “presence” or “being in the present moment” are kinda vague. “Living in the now,” “being here now”… it’s all kinda vague. And I think it’s important to be precise with what it means, because living for the moment is not actually an act of freedom, it’s an act of repression and avoidance. Though it appears to be free, and can even feel a lot like freedom, in reality, it’s pain…taking a leading role in your life.So I think it worthwhile to be very precise here…Living in the present moment intrinsically includes awareness, connection, availability and responsibility.
Living for the moment intrinsically includes avoidance, controlling and repressing connections, and limited availability and responsibility.
Present awareness in this moment includes sensation: air temperature on the surface of your skin, clothing on your body. Sounds: outside noises filtering in the room, all the subtle and obtuse sounds. Movement: the play of light and shadow on the walls and floor, the glare on the computer screen, etc. And it includes awareness of ourselves in this moment: our emotions, our stories or mental projections, noticing any core beliefs or habitual patterns arising in this moment.
We could say: A joy filled awareness of how you are actually a ripple in a pond, including a connectivity to the pond, a connectivity to your self, and an availability and responsiveness to your place in the pond.
Living for the moment can often include awareness of this moment’s sensations: air temperature, sound and light. But it also includes avoidance, rather than awareness, of habitual patterns and core beliefs. There is a selective quality to the awareness; a repression of emotional pain, and an indulgence of mental projections. There may be awareness of authentic movement, but it is compromised. It’s confused with avoidance and repression, so the real authentic impulse is often repressed or exaggerated.
We could say: A distinct lack of ability and interest to notice how the ripple moves in the larger pond, a vague connectivity to ourselves and to the pond, and a distinct lack of availability and responsibility to other ripples in the pond.
It’s easy to confuse one with the other…so to be clear…we can live in the present moment, aligning with what feels authentic to ourselves, and it includes consistent and decisive action. It includes clarity, connection, and responsibility.
Perhaps we can make a distinction like this:
Living for the moment: an act of avoidance.
Living in the present moment: an act of freedom.