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The present moment fascinates me. In the past I’ve been afraid of it. Or, at the very least, cautious about it. I’ve taken training with horses as my teachers to try to be more connected to it.
Gradually, I’m beginning to see that there is nothing to fear in the present moment and that, in fact, it might hold many answers to my questions, especially about unwanted habits.
Transcript of episode
Hello Explorers, and welcome back to another Q&A episode of Unbroken.
Today’s question is: what does the present moment have to do with ending an unwanted habit?
I wanted to talk about this because I’ve been exploring the present moment a little bit more lately, and really enjoying that exploration and also have a bit of a history with being uncomfortable with the present moment. I’ll talk about that as well, toward the end of the episode.
The first thing I guess I want to say about the importance of the present moment when it comes to resolving an unwanted habit, like overeating, is:
It is in the present moment that we can even just begin to notice what’s happening.
When we’re really caught up in our thinking, and which is like jumping onto a train and just getting carried along, and we can be 1000s of miles away, without even realizing what’s going on, down that train of thought. So the first thing about the present moment that’s really helpful is that it just helps us to notice just what’s happening at a very basic level. We can notice that we’re feeling the drive to overeat, we will notice that there’s some tension within us around food and eating, we will notice those sensations in our body, or we’re much more likely to notice them, when we, remember, or just simply have a moment of dropping into the present moment.
The second reason the present moment is important when it comes to ending unwanted habits, is that it’s really going to help us noticing what’s going on with our thinking.
First of all, we’re going to notice that we’re thinking, and that’s really helpful, because noticing that we’re thinking, enables us to see that there’s us, the observer, the intelligence of the universe that is flowing through this person. And then there is the thinking that occurs in our brains, in our brain boxes. That kind of observation is really helpful because it creates a little bit of a gap between ourselves and our thinking.
It’s so easy to get caught up in our thinking and believe everything that our brains are saying to us. And that’s just the human condition, there’s nothing wrong when we do that. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about or to feel like we’re getting it wrong, as it were. That’s just the human condition.
When we’re able to recall that there is a present moment also happening, and I’m saying it that way, because I don’t want it to seem like it needs to be a practice or that this is a prescription at all, because the present moment is always there. It’s not something we need to create. It’s not something we need to manage or manufacture. It’s there with us at every moment.
If we can simply remember to fall into it every once in a while, that will begin to build our awareness of how powerful it is and how helpful it can be for us. Especially when it comes to noticing the difference between the fact that we are thinking and the fact that we’re able to observe that that’s happening.
The third reason that the present moment is so important to resolving an unwanted habit is that the present moment is really where wisdom, insight, fresh thinking and deeper understanding exist.
So, our problem solving brains tend to live either in the future or in the past. When they’re in the future, they are innocently problem solving, anticipating problems, imagining scenarios that might happen, and then trying to figure out solutions to those scenarios, even though they don’t exist yet.
How often have you had an argument with someone in your head? I do it less often now but I used to do it all the time; my brain trying to anticipate what might happen, and then create my response to that thing, even though the thing hasn’t happened yet, just as a way, and then again, innocently, our minds are just simply trying to protect us and keep us safe. So they’re very often off in the future, fearful and anxious and worried and concerned about things that haven’t even happened yet, or they’re very often in the past and thinking about how we could have done things differently, or feeling feelings that that are coming up, because of something that happened in the past.
If and when we can remember to just drop into the present moment, as I said, that’s where fresh insight, fresh thinking, wisdom, all those kinds of things exist, and are available to us. And so it’s a very different quiet space, there in the present moment where those things are available to us.
Now, it’s not that insight can’t occur when we’re caught up in our thinking, when there’s a lot going on in our minds.
But it does seem as though insight is is more available to us when we’re in that calm, quiet state of mind. When we’re really caught up in our thinking, and I can really speak to this personally, it feels like finding the answers to any kind of problem, whether it’s resolving an unwanted habit or resolving an argument with a friend or figuring out what to do next in your business it can feel like the responsibility for all of that rests right on our shoulders. That it’s up to me to figure this thing out, it’s up to me to create this business or solve this problem or fix this situation.
Whereas when we can get a little bit quieter, and remember that the present moment always exists, and we can rest in it, then that, as I say, that space of insight and fresh thinking is there. Therefore, it’s not all on us. It’s not all on my shoulders to fix this situation, or manage whatever’s going on that there is that innate wisdom and creativity and insight that is available to us always.
Dropping into that space, remembering that it’s there, lifts some of that pressure off of us. And so I’ll say again, too, that this isn’t a prescription for trying to be in the present moment, as much as as possible. Insights about unwanted habits can happen, like I said, at any time.
I’m offering this as something for you to explore, something for you to consider that. That space of quietness, in our minds, does have all this wisdom, and creative potential within it.
I also wanted to address why it can sometimes seem difficult to get into the present moment.
And this was a real tripping point for me. I didn’t really understand it for a long time. Whenever I remembered that I could try to be in the present moment, just try to be a little bit quieter, I always felt this anxiety come up or resistance to it. It almost felt like a panicky kind of feeling. And for a long time, I thought, oh, that means something. If I’m feeling panicky and anxious about being in the present moment, then I shouldn’t go there. Of course, that was a natural response that I had.
But as I’ve explored it a little bit more, what I think is going on is there’s two different things happening.
The first is that we’re simply not used to being in the present moment. That’s not how our culture our society is oriented. We’re very much an intellectual, problem solving, brain based culture. And it can seem, I think, unnatural then to want to go quiet, and just be in the present moment.
It’s kind of like If a wheel is spinning really fast, which is what our minds are doing all the time and then it’s almost like slamming on a brake or trying to get that wheel to stop really quickly, there’s going to be some, some resistance to that. It’s actually probably safer to let the wheel slow down at a slower pace.
When we slam on the brakes, when we’re in the car, all the stuff goes in, that’s in your car goes shooting forward. I remember once driving with my little dog in the front seat, and I had to slam on the brakes. This was before the days when you put your dog in a with a seatbelt, and she went sliding down and onto the floor of the passenger seat.
We’re not used to being calm and quiet and reaching for the present moment, and the intelligent that intelligence that exists within it.
So there’s that kind of adjustment that’s going on. And then I also think that we’re just culturally, we’re not a society that values these kinds of things or that values the present moment, that values quiet, and calm. And that even we’re not a culture that values insight and wisdom. We do tend to think that all our problems and all the things that we need to do, and the problems we need to solve are on our shoulders. It’s kind of antithetical to who we are, to think, I’ve got this situation or this problem, and then I would love some answers to it. So I’m just going to let it go and sit quietly, and wait for insight. That’s just not something we’re used to.
I remember hearing people talk about this, when I first started to explore this understanding and thinking to myself, “What on earth? How could you possibly, run a business that way?” Now, I see it completely differently. Now I see that taking the pressure off myself and trying to spend more time in the present is really the place where creativity and fresh new ideas does exist.
One of my favorite expressions is when when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So I think culturally, in our society, we have a lot of tools that are available to us for navigating life. And we really do tend to focus on one: we tend to really just put, all our energy into our problem solving brain.
When we do that, then naturally everything looks like a problem. And then our brain wants to find solutions for that problem. So that’s part of the reason why I think it can seem difficult for us to get into the present moment are a couple of reasons why.
I hope that’s helpful for you. I hope this exploration has maybe bring some fresh insight to you or gives you an idea about how you could maybe just explore what the present moment feels like for you.
Please remember that if you’d like to submit a question about resolving an unwanted habit, you can do that at alexandraamor.com/question, and I’ll be happy to answer your question in an upcoming episode.
Thank you so much for listening. I will talk to you next time.
Feature image photo copyright Alexandra Amor
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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