Why It’s Difficult Being Present

So often, we catch ourselves lost in our thought stream – thinking about our long term plans, or just weekend plans, wondering about past regrets we have, or stressing about things that have yet to come true. But, how well do we live grounded in our own present reality?

It’s quite common to get lost in our memories, hopes, fears, goals and stressors. But, when we lose ourselves in those places, life end us passing us by.

Many men live in the regret of the past – whether that’s dwelling on professional opportunities lost or squandered, women that have gotten away or generally idealizing their pasts in a way that we can’t let go. Often times, when we hold onto the past, intrusive thoughts predominate our thinking, and it’s as if we’re living in a parallel world where we’re not quite available to ourselves and others in the present.

Learning to let go of regret, anger and shame is an important step to letting go of the past. Developing more of a compassionate relationship with yourself means not beating yourself up for not taking that dream job, not actualizing your potential as a star tennis player, or failing in previous relationships. Living in the present moment often entails working through grief as a way to let go of the past, even if the past is so easy to hold on to.

The problem most men face is that they avoid their emotions. In doing this, what happens is that we develop these mental fixations on things in the past or future, and the negative emotions stay stuck and frozen. If you create space to see just how much you’re ruminating on things, people, places, etc., you’ll probably find that you’re avoiding dealing with the emotions that have resulted. Dealing with emotions is hard, especially when they run so deep, but it’s imperative to do so to get unstuck and back into the present moment of your life.

Mindfulness meditation is one way to come to develop more presence and live in the present moment. There are many good books on the subject. Jon Kabat Zinn developed Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR; http://www.mindfullivingprograms.com/whatMBSR.php). Developing a mindfulness meditation practice is helpful to clarifying the mind and learning to detach from one’s thought stream, where suffering lies. It’s not about better avoidance – it’s about being present with everything that arises, including wishful thinking, negative emotions and the pain of our experience of being human.

I personally practice yoga and find it’s a great way to develop more presence and anchor myself in the present moment. There are a number of great yoga studios here in Phoenix, and probably close to your home. Find the yoga style that works best for you, check out different classes from different instructors, and develop a regular routine to experience the best benefits.

Having intimate conversations with those close to you also has the transformative power of change to anchor you back in your present reality. In taking the risk to share fears, hopes, sadness, pain and insecurities with your partner or spouse, a close friend, or a family member, you’ll develop more personal awareness and make contact with those negative emotions in order to expunge them and live more presently.

Lastly, I believe lifestyle has a lot to do with being present – how much sleep you get, if you get regular exercise, how you eat and take care of your body. Optimizing your lifestyle and learning what works best for your body will most definitely help you to get closer access to the present moment. Tune in and listen to your body to see how much sleep you’ll need, when too many stimulants or too much alcohol affects your body, or what foods and supplements will be most beneficial to you maximizing your energy and presence.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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