“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
If you listen to the words of many a spiritual guru you will find that they recommend being present as the optimum way to really feel alive, to make sense of the self and live at our highest power. These are wise words, from many of the wisest people that ever came into existence, however there is also some merit, when it comes to our health, in planning for the future. I am not one to suggest going against the words of Buddha, but if it means I could live to a ripe old age with all my wits about me, then I have to say I may well give it a go. Sorry Buddha as much as I heed your words, the premise that making some plans that I am going to look forward to and work towards may bring me longevity in a positive manner then is that really wrong?
Being a planner can set us up for success, not just in performance in our youth but to reduce the possibilities of neurological problems later on in life, some studies even suggest that forward planning can help us to prolong life even in the face of terminal illness – incorporating the idea that working towards something promotes and encourages a forward motion. However, it could be argued that if we had always been living in the present then we would never have been worrying or even contemplating the future. In this space we are free and liberated of that which we cannot control, and can prevent any strains on our mental state.
Illness may come no matter how healthy or present we are, it can come whether we have plans or not. One strong argument for living in the moment is that looking forward can often subject us to forms of anxiety or worry about what the future may hold. Such stress and anxiety can be detrimental to our health and steer us away from our focus on the now.
When we allow ourselves to be present we are often more capable as we dismiss the past and reject the possibilities of the future, and are able to reflect our current thoughts and ideas without judgement or self-consciousness. In these moments we are just there, with our attention focused outward towards the person we are interacting with. Another way in which being present makes us function better is when we are in the flow of creativity; it is a time where the mind and body just need to be unobstructed by past and future thoughts and just be in that idea and that moment to allow whatever it happens to be to be expressed freely. Creativity is a great way to exercise the mind and can be so liberating that it certainly promotes a healthy brain, keeping us youthful and vibrant.
All the things we need to do to keep us feeling alive and well rely on us being present but at the same time we do need to plan ahead to make sure they happen! Keeping in touch with friends and having a laugh with our nearest and dearest, exercising daily, eating healthily, doing the things you love, making sure those things do not challenge your health in a negative way, learning something new every day, etc.
The best plan, as far as I can see, is that every day in every way we need to work towards increasing our mental and physical capacity, and while we carry out these tasks we absolutely will flourish if we focus on the present. Step out of the comfort zone and try new things, do something completely different, expand your horizons. We need to rest, whether this is an entire night’s sleep, taking time to meditate, or just stopping to take a deep, deep breath, these are all ways to reboot the computer and prevent any pressures being able to infiltrate our being. Deep breathing can also help us to increase our attention span and focus. Stress is something we absolutely have to avoid as it weakens us, it attacks our immune system, messes with our hormones, and shortens our lifespan. We need to fuel our bodies and minds with a balanced, healthy diet (plants, plants, plants) and get the most out of what is on offer to us in this world that we can, staying youthful is absolutely a mindset and for that I agree completely that we must stay present…but there is nothing wrong with allowing that youthful mind to look forward to some things which make it happy!
I feel it is possible that we can adopt a mindset of being present in our daily actions, thoughts and emotions and still have something to look forward to without either taking away from the other. We can plan for the future and spend the time leading up to it not contemplating it (being present), ignoring it if you like, but having the idea nestled safely in our subconscious that it will come.
Longevity is something we need to work on daily, to plan ahead too far may well deter our focus on every day events, however we do need to make sure we have regular plans to maintain the processes that we have discussed to promote a healthy long life. As with most things in life it is all a balance; we can still follow the wise words of Buddha whilst occasionally looking forward to the rest of our lives.
Online diploma course in Mindfulness
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences we offer a distance learning diploma course of 8 lessons in Mindfulness. This course is suitable for anyone wanting to relieve depression or anxiety and improve relationships. For qualified therapists it is very useful for developing a more connected client/practitioner relationship.