Why Do We Resist Living In The Moment?

24 January, 2020
Why is it so difficult for us to focus on living in the present moment? Even though we know how beneficial taking advantage of the present is, there's always something that keeps us from doing it.

The saying carpe diem comes from the great Roman poet Quintus Horatius Flaccus. It means something such as “live in the moment”, in the sense of taking advantage of it. The full phrase in its original language is “Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero”. Its most reliable translation would be “Seize the day, don’t trust tomorrow”. However, we continue to resist living in the moment.

In all honesty, it’s easier to let the day go and wait for tomorrow rather than taking advantage of the present moment. Why do people tend to do this? Some people are unable to live in the moment – they can’t fathom the thought of just thinking of now. They’re way too focused on the past to live the present. They lose every single battle they fight against their own thoughts.

The worst part is that we don’t know if “civilization” took this capacity away from us. We’re left here wondering if the purpose of it all is to stop feeling and begin thinking. But why do we resist living in the moment? Does this have to do with human evolution?

People resist living in the moment due to judgment

Eckhart Tolle, in a masterful conference in Barcelona, revealed this misfortune of the human being: being imprisoned in mental, material, and emotional ways. He mentioned it was important to stop contemplating them as something temporary and start identifying with them. Being present isn’t all there is to it; you must also be mentally satisfied.

This has nothing to do with “self-absorption” or paralysis. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. No one doubts that you have to “do things” in this life.

The important thing here is to be present with what you feel while you do these things. Although judging is easy, you should refrain from putting labels on your emotions. Don’t judge yourself. This, right here, is the most mature form of commitment and character.

“Life without experience and sufferings isn’t life.”

-Socrates-

Connecting with the present, the absence of ego and guilt

Sometimes, ceasing to be imprisoned mentally is similar to pleasant contact with a baby, nature, or an animal. It’s thrilling to see how a person decides to spend time with someone who doesn’t judge nor boast them. Some people feel empowered while others feel weak. Some people relax and connect with the present when they don’t feel judged.

On the other hand, some feel they have to keep proving something. In the latter case, they’re not just refraining from living in the moment, there’s also an excess of narcissism and ego that may lead to stronger discomfort.

The first type of people may need to find a better company and get rid of problematic ones. Perhaps they need to learn to keep judgment aside when being by themselves. They must stop feeling guilty about what they have or haven’t done. Keeping in mind that they’re the protagonist of all situations is essential.

We connect with the present moment by accepting our mental states without being morally or intellectually subjected to them. In addition, by seeing the world from an outsider’s perspective and by differentiating intellect from true wisdom.

A woman looking at a lake.

Not living in the moment due to detachment and Western culture

In the West, it’s difficult to understand detachment. These people refuse to let go and decide to just hold on.

When people in the West have a family, friends, and a lover, they believe it’ll last forever. The truth is that they suffer no matter what happens, and this suffering comes from the inability to detach. For some reason, it’s very hard for them to feel free and connected with the present dimension.

Living in the moment will certainly be harder when the individual thinks everything relies on them, or worse, they may think they need to rely on someone/something else in order to be happy.

We all know death is inevitable – it’s the natural course of life. However, even though people know this, it may take months or even years to get over the death of a loved one. It isn’t death per se that’s sad and painful but refusing to accept it. Acceptance is the hardest part when it comes to grief. Nonetheless, it’s vital to embrace it as a normal process of life.

Learning to live in the moment for the sake of your mental health

Moreover, Westerners are currently living in an era of consumerism and productivity. That being said, this longing to live the present moment has become almost a luxury. Who, as of now, has time to slow down on their way to work to enjoy the morning breeze or the smell of wet grass?

In today’s world, everyone’s constantly on the go. No matter how uncomfortable this may be, it has become a daily routine for many.

Our daily life is extremely hectic, which makes us daydream about the weekend, our next vacation, or even retirement. We think about what we’re going to make for dinner while on our way to work. Sundays are full of Monday-related anxiety. The present moment seems so boring and empty that we have no other choice but to run away.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

-Buddha-

Take your values into account

We all know how much today’s society values performance. It’s all about how you perform at work, how much money you can make, and how many hours a day you work. This, evidently, makes living in the moment much harder. Some may consider this philosophy lazy and careless.

It’s the past and the future that give sense to the present. It’s not a still, but a part of a movie. You must know where we come from in order to build your future. Think of it from an environmental perspective: the way you treat the environment now is going to impact its future.

In order to fight exhaustion, it’s important to stop for a second and think about what life is about. More often than not, you may end up feeling like you can’t find a meaning to it. And that’s the thing: giving life meaning is important in order to live it the way you want to. It’s vital that you know what motivates your actions and choices.

This doesn’t mean that you have to set spectacular goals. Giving meaning to life is finding what matters most to you and then working and acting in accordance with that priority. It can be family, love, or your children, among other things. Only with a clear purpose can you truly take the time to work hard to finally achieve it.

When you take a moment to grasp and enjoy the moment, the memories you make will be incredibly valuable to you. They’ll be linked to all your senses. Some shamans call them “hot memories”. Unlike “cold memories” forged from your intellect, these memories are unforgettable and become a source of comfort.

On the other hand, if you don’t take some time to enjoy the little moments of happiness in your life because you’re too busy focusing on performance, you’ll get the impression that your life lacks content. In fact, the so-called “midlife crisis” is often the result of this observation.

A woman with her eyes closed thinking about the importance of living in the moment.

Why do people sometimes give up living in the moment?

Feeling alive and healthy in the present moment can be a source of joy. However, it won’t be if you don’t stop for a second to appreciate it. Author Sarah Ban Breathnach’s advice is to keep a diary for you to write down five things you feel grateful for every day. By doing this, you’ll realize you’re much richer than you think.

For a long time, we’ve been seeing phrases such as “Your present depends on your past” and “It’s up to you to have a good future”. All these phrases relate the value of the present moment to uselessness, invisibility, or even inactivity. Remember that we’re all different, meaning that some people are more vulnerable than others. That being said, these kinds of messages can trigger anxiety or panic attacks in individuals who are filled with uncertainty.

The only way to heal is to face everything that happens in your life. By living in the moment, you give yourself the chance to figure out how you truly feel about certain events and situations. As a result, you may realize some situations or issues aren’t as bad as you once thought they were. On many occasions, bad things only happen in your mind. Don’t be afraid to let go of your prejudices and your catastrophic mindset and begin to see the world with an open mind.

“Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.”

-Horace-