WARNING: This post contains armchair philosophy and thoughts and ideas that might make your head explode or something.
Here’s a question for you: if you spend fifty percent of you time thinking that yesterday was better, and the other fifty percent thinking that tomorrow will be better – what does that make today? I think that’s my way of trying to understand time and existence. I’ve a feeling I’m biting off more than I can chew here, but I’m going to give it a go….
If you’ve ever had any kind of counselling or therapy ‘mindfulness’ will be a familiar concept to you. It seems that if you want to be normal rather than mental you have to keep your thoughts in the here and now: no past, no future, just the moment you’re in.
Mindfulness is something I struggle with in part because it’s only a few steps shy of meditation and meditation makes me giggle because it’s not the kind of thing I can take seriously. At all. Ever. The end.
Maybe I’m just too cynical for all this mindfulness stuff?
I’m also not entirely convinced that human beings can ever ‘exist’ in one moment alone. I understand the arguments, but I wonder whether we’re really wired that way. Everything that I am now is surely a culmination of everywhere I’ve ever been? Everything that I do now is surely a small contribution to who I’m going to be in the future. If all there is is now then who was I, and who will I be? Those things are important, no?
I suppose it comes down to what ‘existing’ is and whether you believe (is it a belief, I don’t know?) that the verb exist has a legitimate past and future tense. Existing isn’t just being alive. I’m sure about that because, for example, I’m sitting on a chair at the moment and the chair definitely exists and is definitely not alive* Some things ‘existed’ thousands of years ago but people argue that they only exist now in this moment. You are reading this in a different moment from the one I wrote it in. When does it exist?
I exist now and I’m fairly confident of that. And I know I existed yesterday because I can REMEMBER yesterday. That’s quite straightforward in a way, but tomorrow only ‘exists’ in so far as I can imagine it. Does that mean it exists or not…. I’ve never been to Madagascar but I know it exists, or does it – maybe it only exists in this moment if you are actually there? Do bears shit in the woods?
……. Dear oh dear. Is your head hurting yet?
I think I’ll have a nice musical interlude at this point to get my hurting head off the hook….. Here’s a (very) handsome man with a gruff and gravelly voice singing about tomorrow. It’s nice. It’ll make your head all better:
I got lost in existence for a while there. Sorry. But I think you have probably got the gist of the difficulty that I have with mindfulness?
The past matters to human beings. It forms a large part of our collective identity, and, I think of our individual identities too. The past is important and I don’t think you should wipe it away and I don’t think you really can – no matter how you train your brain. That’s why we have Armistice Day (as an example) because what people did in the past matters a great deal to who people are today, and for that matter, how they live today.
As for the future, I can’t imagine what humans would be without it. Would we ever have done anything? What happens to progress if there is no future? What happens to hope?
Living in the moment is all very well. But what if the moment you are in is terrible? I don’t really mean broken brain terrible (although that is quite terrible enough) but what if, for arguments sake you are being held in a Syrian jail and tortured within an inch of your life IN THIS MOMENT? I can’t see how you find happiness in that moment under those circumstances…..
I’m over thinking it aren’t I?
Here are my final thoughts on mindfulness…..
Google ‘mindfulness’ or ‘living in the moment’ or whatever variation on the theme you can think of and you’ll find people who have found ‘happiness’ by simply ‘living in the moment’. I think that’s fantastic for them, I really do, but what they never say is HOW they do it. Do they just wake up one morning and find themselves in the moment? If the only problem that I have is that I can’t live in the here and now, why can’t someone just give me a step by step guide to living in the here and now?
I don’t get it.
Finally – in my mind there is a very practical problem with ‘living in the moment’. Okay, so here I am today. I’m typing up a blog post and watching Olympic Volleyball. That’s all that matters because that’s now. It’s all I should be thinking about.
But here’s the thing. There isn’t a lot of food in my flat and one of my friends has a birthday coming up. That means I need to think about buying groceries and gifts and I will do both of those things in the future but I will plan for them now. If I stuck with the moment I’d just head out into the world to forage for food when I was hungry and I’d never get a gift to anyone in time. Sometimes you have to plan but if you ever say that to someone who is trying to teach you mindfulness they will say ‘ah, but that’s different – it’s a different kind of thinking, a different thought process’.
To me, that says that mindfulness is an intuitive thing and I end up back at wondering where my step by step guide to mindfulness is because I quite clearly don’t get it. As usual.
What a long post to say nothing more than ‘I’m confused and I don’t get it’!!
Lots of love from a philosophical WeeGee xx
*Unless I have well and truly taken leave of my senses once and for all!