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If You Don't Know What Your Next Thought Is, You're Not Alone
I find it rather easy to get lost in thought. Although I do enjoy this journey through my mind, there are times where I must pull myself out of this excursion. I am reminded of this every time my 3-year old daughter asks me, “Daddy, are you here?” This question hits deep.I find it rather easy to get lost in thought. Although I do enjoy this journey through my mind, there are times where I must pull myself out of this excursion. I am reminded of this every time my 3-year old daughter asks me, “Daddy, are you here?” This question hits deep.
I am learning the importance of being present in the moment. One book I turn to for this is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Let’s take a look at what we can all learn from Tolle in his powerful book.
Life is a series of present moments
If I asked you where everything happens, what would you say? The answer should be quite simple – everything happens in the present moment.
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all you will ever have.” – Eckhart Tolle
Tolle teaches us that the past is nothing more than all present moments that have gone by and the future is a collection of present moments waiting to arrive.
We fill in gaps with painful thoughts
For some reason we incessantly fill our mind with painful thoughts about the past and worrisome thoughts about the future. Yet, we can only live in the present.
Think of a straight line. At one end is the past and the other the future. In the center of the line is the present moment, where you exist. Now picture gaps along the line on each side of the center. The center (the present moment) is the only spot that should contain our thoughts. However, we fill in those gaps on each side of the center with painful and worrisome thoughts that do not matter. These thoughts do not matter because we can only live in the center – the present moment.
One question to freeze your situation
There exists one question that can freeze any system in its current state.
“What will my next thought be?”
By repeatedly asking yourself this question, you can actually delay the answer to the question – your next thought. This is a powerful way to interrupt your mind and separate yourself from it.
This is an effect from physics called the quantum zeno effect. Essentially, the quantum zeno effect demonstrates we can freeze a system in its current state by endlessly observing it. The key to being in the present moment is observing the present moment.
Give it a try now.
Pull your mind from your body
Imagine for a moment that you could pull your mind from your body to observe your thoughts and actions. Well… you can. Think of playing a video game where a dialogue or decision box pops up above the character requiring you to make a decision about what to say or do next. What else is happening in the game? You are freezing the game in its current state – in the present moment. It freezes the present moment in the game and in real life, think about that.
Now think of a recent moment in your life where you had a negative thought. Freeze that moment and visualize yourself as the video game character. In a video game, we don’t judge the character we are controlling, we simply observe the decision or action that needs to be made.
“Your entire life consists of the present moment.” – Eckhart Tolle
We all have negative thoughts for which we cannot wish away. They will continue to flood our stream of conscious. The point is that we must stop judging the thought. We can’t stop the thought from entering our mind, but we can stop the judgement of the thought.
The next time a negative thought makes its way into your conscious, just acknowledge its existence and remember… it does not control you. Take a moment to observe the thought and analyze it.
Finally, if you desire to be more present, you must be present. I am reminded here of one of my favorite quotes by Jim Elliot.
“Wherever you are – be all there.”
So, wherever you are… be all there.
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