But what if I can't live in the present tomorrow?
October 12, 2012 12:57 PM   Subscribe

The times when I am most content and at peace are the times that I am most able to live in the present - unattached to outcomes, not falling into "what ifs", not "writing the script", etc. I've also been at my most successful when I've had that attitude. Unfortunately, it's also pretty rare that I'm able to get there. What books, recordings, techniques, anything else help you reach that "it is what it is and it's all ok" attitude?
posted by SampleSize to Religion & Philosophy (13 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
One name for the state you're describing is flow. This guy wrote a book about flow.
posted by ottereroticist at 1:08 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is what insight meditation is all about.
posted by palegirl at 1:22 PM on October 12, 2012

You're describing Buddhism. This is the whole idea.
Sit Down and Shut Up is one of my favorite books about Buddhism and meditation.
posted by bleep at 1:24 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

The "Power of Now" is all about this.
posted by Busmick at 1:30 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

One thing that helps me is visualizing human behavior as if we were all animals in a show on the Wildlife Channel, complete with narration. For example, I perceive a nightclub as if it were a National Geographic special, with the narrator saying things like "Initially the females cluster together protectively around the dance floor, but after having a few drinks at the watering hole, an elaborate mating ritual begins." Or if somebody is being snarky to me, I imagine "The subordinate male sees an opportunity to raise his status in the pack by challenging one of the alphas. With a series of yips and growls, he signals his menacing intent."

Putting things in perspective like this not only helps me feel more relaxed in social situations, but I've found that as a side benefit, it also helps me notice behavioral subtexts more easily. It's also fairly amusing from time to time.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:39 PM on October 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Try listening to any dharma talks by Sharon Salzberg or Tara Brach. Read anything by Pema Chodron.
posted by annabellee at 2:51 PM on October 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Sedona Method. They offer expensive seminars, but all you really need is the book.
posted by Wordwoman at 3:11 PM on October 12, 2012

The ability to willfully both believe anything and doubt everything conferred by Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger, followed by the love and buddhism emanated by Baba Ram Das' Be Here Now made a lasting impact on my ability to live in the present. Also, Alan Watts and regular meditation and exercise.
posted by cmoj at 3:35 PM on October 12, 2012

Another keyword to google is "mindfulness". My mindfulness guy recommends the book The Happiness Trap, but I haven't read it yet myself.
posted by lollusc at 6:42 PM on October 12, 2012

And as for techniques, the main one that works for me is spending time deliberately "observing" my thoughts and emotions. The idea is to realise that you can distinguish a "you" (the observer) from the things you are thinking and feeling. They are not you, just something you do. One technique that works for that is to imagine thoughts and feelings as floating past you on a river, or moving along a conveyor belt, "releasing" them as you notice them, so they can continue on into the distance. Sounds hokey, but it's a good metaphor for the sort of distancing you want to encourage.

Alternatively just focussing very intently on the here and now is helpful. So if you are doing something "mindless" where your brain is free to wander (e.g. cleaning, data entry, whatever), make a real effort to keep bringing it back to thinking about what you can see in front of you, what you can hear around you, your breath moving in and out, what you feel in your body (are your shoulders relaxed? Which muscles in your legs are moving as you step towards the fridge, etc). Supposedly practising this deliberately a few times a day for 5-10 minutes makes a difference in terms of how much you stay in the present when you aren't even trying.
posted by lollusc at 6:47 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Buddhism. Any books by Eckhart Tolle (especially "The Power of Now"). Yoga. Meditation.
posted by bearette at 7:43 PM on October 12, 2012

You should take "everything is fine exactly the way it is" with a grain of salt when the sentiment comes from the ruler of the Roman Empire, but I've found Marcus Aurelius' Meditations filled with the sort of thing you might find useful. It's particularly helpful for letting go of anxiety and people in your life that get on your nerves.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 4:09 PM on October 21, 2012

Seconding (or thirding?) the mindfulness bit. Ironically, working so hard to be mindful and present while ending up with tons of links, books, etc is always a struggle. (Yes, I am projecting :) ) So here are my few go-to to distill. They are all bite-size

How to Train a Wild Elephant - Jan Chozen - Short insightful mindfulness exercises that you can take or leave. I find this one of the best out there.

Tao-teh-Ching - Lao Tzu (many will tell you what the "right" translation is and I will leave you to those experts, but you can read Stephen Mitchell's respected translation free online or download an ebook via Project Gutenberg)

The Art of Peace by Morihei Ueshiba. The Shambhala Press book is nice but you can read it online as well.

I also like TinyBuddha.
posted by snap_dragon at 6:12 PM on November 17, 2012

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