Are there particular quotes about "staying in the present" that are poignant to you?
December 28, 2010 4:01 AM   Subscribe

Are there particular quotes about "staying in the present" that are poignant to you? Recently I have been worrying about the future, to the point it's become debilitating to accomplish some of the most trivial of tasks. I am looking for quotes to use as quick reminders to stay in the present, and the let the future be as it may.
posted by helios410 to Religion & Philosophy (36 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
I'm others will suggest better quotes, but this sort of works for me. Say out loud:

"Stop" [distracting train of thought stops]

"Carry on" [return to paying attention to the present]

Simple but it seems to work. I do it in a radio 1 dj voice, but that's probably not necessary.
posted by verisimilitude at 4:09 AM on December 28, 2010

If you can change it, don't worry about it.

If you can't change it, why worry about it?

- Anon
posted by dougrayrankin at 4:12 AM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

Forward motion, no wallowing. --- Seth Godin

The only three things you can do with time are sell it, savor it, or squander it.
posted by valannc at 4:32 AM on December 28, 2010 [8 favorites]

The best one, to my mind, comes from Baba Ram Dass: "Be Here Now".
posted by megatherium at 4:39 AM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

"One day at a time – this is enough – do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone and do not be troubled about the future – for it has not yet come. Live in the present and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering."

"The past should not be followed after and the future not desired; what is past is dead and gone and the future is yet to come." ~Buddha
posted by NoraCharles at 4:44 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Atticus Finch said, "It isn't time to worry yet" which to me is just a slow, deep, cleansing breath made of words. It's always true, especially when you think about everything Atticus had to worry about. Raising kids on his own, a world full of hate, threats to his and his family's lives... Either there's something to be done about a situation, in which case worrying is a distraction, or there's nothing to be done about it, in which case worrying is futile. No matter what, it's a waste of energy & there's no right time for it.
posted by headnsouth at 4:48 AM on December 28, 2010 [16 favorites]

Also I had this Emerson quote written on the wall next to my bed for a long time: "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense."
posted by headnsouth at 4:51 AM on December 28, 2010 [22 favorites]

When I'm stuck in non-present thoughts, I like to repeat the word "now", out loud or in my head. What's nice about it is that there is no real one-word equivalent (in English) for future...I guess you could say "later" or "future", but those are clunky and multi-syllabic. Makes it unlikely that you'll trail off into unwanted tenses thru mutated repetition. Even "then" is ambiguous, because it could also refer to the past. So "now" it is.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:08 AM on December 28, 2010

No quote comes to mind (I don't have a mind for quotes), but you could surely find a million pearls of wisdom about staying in the present in the works of Pema Chodron, esp. When Things Fall Apart.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:38 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Musical theatre provides some excellent songs and quotes to this effect.

The musical RENT has been a great source of comfort to me over the years. The song Another Day includes these lyrics:

"There's only now
There's only here
Give in to love
Or live in fear
No other path
No other way
No day but today"

There's also the finale of Avenue Q- with the sentiment that "Everything in life is only for now."
posted by sueinnyc at 5:48 AM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

This one comes from the wall of a bathroom bar, but somehow that makes it all the more delightful by my book: "If you have one foot in the future, and one foot in the past, you shit on the present."
posted by DingoMutt at 5:51 AM on December 28, 2010 [4 favorites]

"Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

Or, there's no sense in borrowing trouble from the future.

By the way, something I found helpful for dealing with worrying, was to write down all the things I ever worried about, and note how many a) actually happened (a tiny percentage) and b) were as bad as I thought they would be (an even smaller one).


"I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened."
-- Mark Twain
posted by Erasmouse at 6:00 AM on December 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

I like "Be here now" also.. Another one I use is "this too shall pass..."
posted by Glendale at 6:19 AM on December 28, 2010

this song is full of such quotes:
Lenny Kravitz- "This Moment Is All There Is"
posted by mrmarley at 6:39 AM on December 28, 2010

This may land differently, depending on the frame of mind and body you may find yourself in, but it once helped me to simplify all competing priorities when feeling a Sartrean sense of no exit. Mind knots are often less powerful than we imagine, if we learn to step out of the conflict entirely and no longer give it credence. I neither believe in cults of personality nor facile pronouncements, so what worked once may not be resonant in the future. It's like landing on random stones while crossing a stream. It's okay to get a little water on your toes.
posted by simulacra at 7:23 AM on December 28, 2010

"Our continual mistake is that we do not concentrate on the present day, the actual hour, of our life; we live in the past or in the future; we are continually expecting the coming of some special moment when our life will unfold itself in its full significance. And we do not notice that life is flowing like water through our fingers, sifting like precious sand from a loosely fastened bag."

- Fr. Alexander Elchaninov
posted by deanc at 7:37 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

"I am a person who continually destroys the possibilities of a future because of the numbers of alternative viewpoints I can focus on the present."
- Doris Lessing

I printed this out and keep it where I can see it.
posted by Constant Reader at 7:47 AM on December 28, 2010

Wherever you are, be all there.
--Jim Elliot
posted by heathergirl at 8:13 AM on December 28, 2010

Jon Kabat-Zinn is an excellent source of these. 1, 2, 3
posted by jbickers at 8:18 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

My go-to is Pema Chodron's Four Rs, which I've talked about here before. But something else that was really useful to me in a time of great anxiety was this short poem by Rumi, "Birdwings":

Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.

Expecting the worst, you look, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.

Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.

Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.

posted by mothershock at 8:24 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.", Rabindranath Tagore
posted by leapfrog at 8:30 AM on December 28, 2010

"No time to rush."

My meditation teacher tells a story about a woman who was diagnosed with cancer when her child was a baby and knew she would only have a year or so with her child. Her mantra to herself was "no time to rush." Even though she had so little time, she knew the way to experience it fully was to stay in the present. Since none of us knows how much time we have, I think it works well as a reminder for everyone. This life is no time to rush.
posted by zahava at 9:03 AM on December 28, 2010 [6 favorites]

I can't imagine making it through my life without this Rilke quote:

"....Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart, and to try to love the questions themselves, as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
posted by Miko at 9:08 AM on December 28, 2010 [13 favorites]

Don't worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life... the most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don't.

-- from the spoken-word song Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen).

Keep your eye on the ball and the scoreboard will take care of itself.

-- I've heard it many times, I can't seem to find its origin.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

-- I'll let you figure out where that's from.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 10:21 AM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Safety, security, knowing, and being right are all synonyms for death." — Cheri Huber
posted by Lexica at 10:22 AM on December 28, 2010 [3 favorites]

I agree with Miko, to the point where I got a tattoo of a phrase from the quote to remind me.
posted by emkelley at 10:22 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take care of the present and the future will take care of itself."
posted by scody at 11:40 AM on December 28, 2010

The Serenity Prayer is always a good one, especially when your worries and anxieties are what's keeping you from concentrating on the here-and-now.

[I'm an atheist, so I just skip the God part and think of it from an internal meditation perspective]

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
posted by amyms at 11:51 AM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Start anywhere." --John Cage
posted by rhizome at 11:59 AM on December 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've developed a new philosophy... I only dread one day at a time. - Charlie Brown (Peanuts)

It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis. - Margaret Bonanno

Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness. - James Thurber
posted by amyms at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2010

Jesus is the one who said " Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof."

If it's good enough for the Son of God, it's good enough for me. And I DO make use of it!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:22 PM on December 28, 2010

This bible passage is good...

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Matthew 6:25-27
posted by sandyp at 6:48 PM on December 28, 2010

Never whistle while you're pissing.
posted by Orb2069 at 8:11 AM on December 29, 2010

My mindful meditation teacher always used to say that our brains were like flies at a picnic, flitting from one thing to another and never actually settling on anything. This is normal, but in mindfulness meditation, when you recognize your mind wandering, you note it, and bring yourself back to your center, to your breath. So most often to keep myself in the present, I just say to myself "Breathe." It's the most visceral way to remind myself that I am alive and I am here. Sometimes I like to touch something cold and smooth, like the top of my desk or my stainless steel water bottle to bring myself back into my body, too.

Another sort-of koan from mindfulness meditation that has stuck with me: When you stand on the edge of a babbling stream, you can look down into it and see rocks and pebbles lying on the bottom. Those rocks lie there, still and smooth, while the water passes over them. We are the rock in the stream, and the water of life passes over us. We can let it carry us away, or we can be still and watch and feel it flow over and around us. Telling myself "I am a rock in a stream" is a reminder to change my perspective, quiet my mind, and to see the whole of the thing and my place in the world.

The Weepies' song "Little Bird" has this great line: "Open your window and look upon all the kinds of alive you can be. Be still, be light, believe me." Again, another way to think about the whole future, all the choices before you, and a reminder to be still and light in the present moment.
posted by sarahnade at 9:35 PM on December 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

"Notice your next breath."
posted by paperstreet at 11:43 AM on January 4, 2011

« Older Best Trampoline for Kids?   |   Christmas for the introvert Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.