When we talk about the present moment, we’re talking about right now. And now. And also now. It moves along with you. In other words, whatever the thing is that you’re doing/reading/smelling is the present moment.
The easiest way of describing it is to think about your breath or your senses. Right after you read this paragraph, I want you to actually do the thing you read. Take 30 seconds and pay attention to your breath. Notice how it feels in your body when you inhale. As in, the temperature of the air as it enters your nose or mouth, if you notice your chest rising, your diaphragm moving, or you stomach getting full. Pay attention to how your body naturally responds when you’ve received enough oxygen, what your body feels like when you exhale, and the temperature of the air leaving your body (and then repeat three times).
Okay, pause here and actually do the thing that you read above. Then come back.
Good, thank you!
That’s the present moment. It’s time when you’re fully tuned in with yourself - not your thoughts because those are all over the place (probably)- but with your senses.
There’s a saying that you can’t breathe in the past and you can’t breathe in the future - you can only breathe in the present. The breath is always a simple (not necessarily easy, of course) way to be in the present. Your senses are other simple ways because they, too, can’t be in the past or future.
And what is the point of talking about all of this? You might be wondering.
Because people who spend too much time ruminating on the past end up feeling depressed and people who spend too much time planning or thinking about the future tend to feel anxious. No, not all people and no, those aren’t the only things that feed into anxiety and depression yet they are factors.
When we can spend time actually being in the present, we feel less anxious and more grounded, less depressed and more hopeful, and better overall.
Additionally, just as a little extra, it’s interesting to note that people who spend more time in the present moment tend to get overwhelmed less. They develop the ability to create some distance between a thought and the reactive feeling from the thought. Rather than have a thought and feel immediately overwhelmed, it allows you to have a thought and see it as just a thought, sometimes even without the feeling.
And if this all sounds like gibberish, we get it. It’s an odd concept to think about (and practice) when so much of our world is reaction-based, rather than intentional and focused. It’s worth it to get into the habit, though. The benefits are close to none other.