There’s this idea in Eastern and Western philosophy that we must learn how to enjoy the present moment without getting distracted by the past or future.
Ever since the invention of words, the human race has been lost in thought. We are constantly thinking, stressing, worrying, and being preoccupied with a force that seems outside of our control.
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That’s why many of us search for refuge in philosophies that promise us inner calm. Stoicism, Mindfulness, Zen—most of us use the teachings to escape our thoughts.
We keep on treating the symptoms by using meditation apps, reading comfortable books and articles, getting rid of our devices, and trying the next solution that promises peace from ourselves.
I’m guilty of this too. I’m always looking for new knowledge and information. At some point, I learned that more information is not the answer.
But what CAUSES this state of mind we are in? The answer is our excessive desire. There’s an Epicurean saying that the stoic philosopher Seneca talks about in one of his letters:
“The life of a foolish man is fearful and unpleasant; it is swept totally away into the future.”
Like most ancient philosophers, Epicurus aspired to live a happy life. He aimed for peace, fearlessness, and a life that’s absent of pain. He proposed a self-sufficient life.
I don’t agree with all his views, but I like his perspective on pleasure. Pleasure is not only eating, drinking, and being merry—no, true pleasure is to live care-free.
But we live our lives far from it. We are always distracted by something. That’s why it’s difficult to enjoy the moment.
Removing Excessive Desire From Our Lives
Here are a few things many of us want to obtain:
- To live forever
- To have a lot of money
- To be respected
- To have power
- To stay healthy
- To have certain people in our lives
Epicureanism considers these desires as an illness of the soul. A soul that’s pure doesn’t want to “obtain” anything. It is complete. It doesn’t need anything.
It’s the same concept that Buddhism and Mindfulness propose. And it’s a viewpoint we can all benefit from. But how do you practice all this stuff without relying too much on external sources to be happy?
Turns out there’s a very simple way that we can be more present. We can stop thinking about the past and the future so we can enjoy the present.
Rely On Your Own Senses
Let’s do a little thought exercise. When you walk on the street, take a shower, have a conversation, or sit on a chair, what do you do? Think about it. What happens inside your head when you’re doing something?
Almost all of us perform the activity as a secondary thing. Our primary objective is to think. You can easily detect that by looking at how much you rely on your senses on an average day.
Do you FEEL the water on your skin in the shower? Do you HEAR the words someone is saying to you? Do you SEE the buildings you walk by? Do you SMELL the coffee? Do you TASTE the omelet?
We all know we have five basic senses. And yet, we’re not aware of them. We’re only aware of our thoughts. Your thoughts are stealing away your senses. Ever thought about that?
To be more at peace. To enjoy the present. To be less distracted. To be happy…All you need to do is rely more on your senses.
Feel, hear, see, smell, and taste life, my friend. It’s pretty good. But you already knew that.
“What about my goals?”
At first sight, having goals does not match with living in the present. After all, goals are by definition future-oriented. When you set a goal, you’re aiming at something in the future. Is that bad?
Like everything in life, nothing is good or bad by itself. We tend to turn our goals into a bad thing by thinking too much about them.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having the intention to make your life better. And if you think about it, all these philosophers, spiritual teachers, and sages all had their goals.
They wrote books, started schools, movements, and communities. So when some person tells you goals are bad, walk away.
Sometimes we need a reminder to be more present. To enjoy our lives and to make the best of it.
Why not increase your awareness right now? Do you feel the device that’s in your hand? Do you see the beauty of the place you’re currently in? What do you smell? What do you hear?
Rely on that. And less on your thoughts. You’ll find that life will be peaceful. And you’ll find that you don’t need anything to be happy.
Life is good the way it is. You don’t need to read another book. You don’t need to meditate. You don’t NEED anything.
It’s funny how this awareness removes the worry and stress out of our lives. Because right now, at this moment, there’s nothing to worry about. Relying on your senses does that for you.
This article originally appeared on Darius Foroux.
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