Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What does it mean to live in the present moment?

As ‘budding Buddhas’, we may have heard fellow practitioners stress ‘Living in the present moment’. This advice echoes a statement made by the Buddha himself, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly". Renowned Zen monk Thich Nhat Hahn further qualifies the present moment with his oft said “Present moment, wonderful moment.” 

Although particular moments may not seem so wonderful, by being aware of the present moment we can still step back into our lives and truly experience life the way it was meant to be lived. We are no longer stuck in a nebulous past or catapulted into an uncertain future, but we are exactly where we are supposed to be, right here, right now.

That being said, what about the ‘pop-culture’ context in which we have heard others declare we were living ‘in the moment’? This could include something as innocent as eating a delicious dessert or buying an item that we probably shouldn’t, to consuming many intoxicating drinks or having an illicit affair.

Seeing these examples and ‘present moment, wonderful moment’ side by side, we can notice a clear difference. In the ‘pop culture’ version, the ‘live in the moment’ focus is exclusively on the self. In contrast, living in the present moment as the Buddha taught is doing so with a balance of wisdom and compassion for all beings, including ourselves. In truth, we are only human, and may therefore sometimes slip up. But we can prevent (and remedy) such errors by being ever-mindful of the joy that comes from slowing down and living life breath by breath, from one moment to the next. 

Was this post helpful? What does the present moment mean to you?

May all beings be happy!


  1. What is present moment? For me, to live in a present moment is a challenge. Why? Becos my human condition mind can so easily trap me in thought again. To live in the present moment is to be aware of what you are doing right now is particular.

    For example, I am now sitting down on a nice comfy chair and my right hand is holding a cup of coffee. The cup of coffee is quite warm and its a little heavy as the cup is full. My feet is quite comfy since I am wearing socks and feeling comfortable as the air around my feet is quite cold. My clothes is also quite comfortable and it matches what is expected of me in the office.

    So on and on I can tell you about the present moment. But yet why many can't or find it hard to live in the present moment?

    Becos our mind from time to time will make you remember of the past event like "Oh yeah, my sock was given to me by so and so. I wonder where this person is? The last time I saw him was during......."

    So on and on you remember the past and you become trap in your mind not noticing of the present.

    Be very aware of the thoughts in your mind so that you won't be trap in it but to fully live in the present.

    And yet some of us are not trap in the past but in the future.

    For example, I have a son. He is now a baby but one day I want him to be a doctor, have a lot of money, a beautiful family and be happy. But to be a doctor he needed diploma then degree, but it is even better if he has a master or PHD. I must now plan which school I will put him in and I want that school to be a very good school to increase his chances to be a doctor.... Bla bla bla..."

    My dear friend, your child is still a baby. But now you already saw him as an adult and are already making plans. If you do not enjoy him being a baby then you will not get a second chance. Once it has become the past, it will never return but you can see it only as a memory.

    Be very conscious or aware of your mind and try as much as you can to enjoy the present or Now. For only Now you can take action. You cannot act in the past nor can you act in the future.

    Peace be with you.

    1. Thanks for the comment- you are always so insightful. I agree very much with all you said here, and how we can so easily cheat ourselves of what is really the only thing we ever have, which is the present moment.

      Peace be with you as well!

      With Metta,


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