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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Living Fully in the Present Moment

Why is living fully in the present moment so hard?  Everyone has different ideas about this.  I believe that most of us tend to focus our thoughts mostly in the past or in the future and relatively little time living in the here and now.

Living Fully in the Present Moment

Living Mostly in the Past or in the Future
For people who live in the past, they often dwell on how life was for them during particular times in their lives.  They might focus on times when they thought life was better.  There's often a yearning to get back to that time, if it was a special time in their lives.  Or, especially when there's been emotional trauma, they might focus on emotional upsets from the past and dwell on them.  Trauma often keeps people stuck in the past if the trauma hasn't been worked through in therapy.

For people who live in the future, they often dwell on thoughts of how they would like to live their lives.  They might spend a lot of time fantasizing about a new relationship, a better job and, overall, living a happier life.  Conversely, they might spend most of their time worrying about the future.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with thinking about your past or your hopes for the future.  It's important to learn from the past and to plan for the future.  But the problem is that when you tend to dwell on these thoughts most of the time, you're not living fully in the present moment and you're missing out on what's going on around you right now, including  your relationships and your environment.  And, by dwelling mostly on the past or the future, you're probably not in touch with your inner emotional world as it is right now.  And dwelling on the past or the future can be a way of escaping from the here and now.

Precious Moments - Even During Difficult Times
I believe that even during difficult times, there can be precious moments that we can miss if we're not attuned to what's happening in the here and now.  It's very easy (and understandable) that when times are tough, we tend to focus on our worries.  Our thoughts might run wild about all the things that could go wrong.  We can get distracted and disorganized, which creates its own problems.  Then, we miss out on what might be precious gems of moments even during an otherwise turbulent time.

Living Fully in the Present Moment

Recently, a close relative was rushed to the emergency room because he was having a heart attack.  Like most people, as I was rushing to the hospital, my first thoughts went to the worst case scenario.  I hailed a cab and told him how to get to the hospital, which was about 30 minutes away from my home.  Instead of following my directions, the cab driver told me he knew of a faster route, so I agreed to go his way.  But, instead of being a faster route, he got lost and, worse still, we were going in the wrong direction.  Then, we got caught in a lot of traffic.

It took all the self discipline that I could muster to stay calm and not lose it with this taxi driver.  All the while, I was worried about getting to the hospital too late.   I had to continually bring my mind back to the present and remember to breathe.  I knew that getting upset wasn't going to help me or the cab driver.

Finally, he was able to turn around and follow my original suggestion for getting to the hospital and we were soon there.  As I reached into my wallet to pay the driver, he looked back at me with kind eyes.  He apologized for getting us lost and told me that he wouldn't charge me for the ride.  In that brief moment, when we made eye contact, I could see that he had a lot of compassion and I sensed from his few words that he understood what I was going through.  It was just a moment in an otherwise chaotic situation, but it was meaningful to me, and I was grateful for it.

During the days when my relative was in the cardiac care unit (CCU), there were other special moments in an otherwise distressful situation, including the care and kindness of the nurses and doctors on staff.  Most of them had worked together as a team on CCU for many years and they seemed to have such a camaraderie among them, which I was very grateful for.  They were very compassionate and skilled in their work.  They also took the time to explain things carefully and in simple terms.  Each night I left the CCU when visiting hours were over, I was able to console myself with the thought that my relative was getting the best of care from people who were concerned about his well being.

There were other moments where friends and a relative that I hadn't seen in many years visited the CCU and brought poignant moments of laughter and comfort.  Getting caught up and feeling rooted in a strong emotional support system gave comfort to my relative who had the heart attack and to me.  It reminded me that, even during very difficult times, there can be precious moments that we could miss if we remain distracted in our thoughts and not living in the present moment.

Fortunately, my relative is on the road to recovery, and he has a very good medical team in place for after care.  His medical emergency was another reminder of how precious life and our relationships with our loved ones are, and how easily we can forget this when we're stuck in our particular default mode of going through life.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  
Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.

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