Last week I burned my hand quite severely. It was an accident while cooking, I was tired, stressed, I was suffering from the flu, and I tried to do several things at once. The pain was immense but it was entirely my own fault, I wasn’t present enough to notice that I hadn’t turned of the stove. However painful it can seem to have an accident like this, it is nothing compared to the suffering caused by not being present in the long term. Let me explain.
Going to McDonalds can actually be quite a pleasurable experience, if your very hungry and not aware of the crap they put in their “food”. But if you go to McDonald’s everyday for maybe ten years and you start to suffer from diabetes and a high blood pressure as a result of it, it is actually the long term equivalence of me burning my hand on the stove. Because you weren’t aware of the long-term consequences of what you were eating in the present everyday for a long time, you caused yourself a lot of pain and possibly permanent damage to your health.
The false understanding of living in the moment.
Today the concept of living in the moment have been commercialized and perverted beyond recognition. Now there are ads on television with modern-looking youngsters eating candy with a reassuring background voice saying “be in the moment”. You can hear some fat fuck at the bar telling his friend “hey man have another beer you gotta live in the moment” and so on. To be present does not equate with living frivolously. To be present is to be aware of cause and reaction as well as being attentive to what’s going on around you.
This concept is as stupid as the modern concept of YOLO (you only live once), I have heard people justify taking drugs with this motivation. Yes you only live once, so why not try to live as long and be as capable as possible so you can feel content with your life the day you will have to face the prospect of death.
Mindfulness means conscious presence.
The concept of mindfulness have become very popular today with courses in mindful cooking, mindful sex, mindful studying and so on. In Swedish mindfulness have been translated into “Medveten närvaro” which means “conscious presence”. I prefer this term since it refers to its original meaning. If your really practicing Mindfulness on a consistent basis you don’t need special courses in mindful gardening, mindful masturbation or whatever, because you are trying to be mindful in everything.
The concept of mindfulness comes from Buddhism even if we can find similar techniques in Stoicism. Unlike what many people believe the Buddha did not mainly propose that his followers should meditate a few hours per day and then just go about the rest of their days mindlessly, he thought his students that their whole day should be a meditation. He told his students that they should meditate while walking, eating, having sex (if they werent monks) and even while taking a crap. To live in the present, to be mindful in its original context means to be aware of the realities of life, the laws of nature and most of all of death.
So be aware that life consists of the moment, that is all you have. Don’t numb yourselves with drugs or alkohol or television, that is not being in the moment that’s missing it. Life is short so make the best of it and remember – fucking YOLO!